Nonprofits Develop Affordable Prostheses

Home > Articles > Nonprofits Develop Affordable Prostheses

An article in the May issue of The O&P EDGE, "The Million-Dollar Fit: Companies Develop Affordable Prostheses for Use in Less Resourced Countries," focused on a handful of companies that are working to develop and provide more affordable, adjustable, high-quality prostheses to people with amputations in less resourced nations. This Online Exclusive highlights several other nonprofit companies with similar goals: Nia Technologies, the Victoria Hand Project, and The Helping Hand Project.

 Nia Technologies, based in Toronto, Canada, was born out of need in 2013, says Jerry Evans, president and CEO. Many of the roughly 30 million people who need mobility devices in resource-poor countries are children, he says. "Without access to well-fitting prosthetic and orthotic devices, children with lower-limb disabilities face challenges in reaching their full potential," he says. "They often get trapped in a lifelong cycle of poverty."

To help address the demand, Nia developed 3D PrintAbility, which uses 3D scanners and printers, and proprietary software to produce point-of-care P&O devices. Nia has tested its innovations to produce safe, durable, appropriate, high-quality custom devices, including clinical trials in 2017, ISO robotic fatigue testing of one million steps for a 3D-printed transtibial device, and equipment and material testing at the University of Toronto, Evans says. During the clinical trials, Nia fitted 140 children in Cambodia, Tanzania, and Uganda with the devices, including 70 transtibial prostheses and 70 AFOs, he says.

The team at the Victoria Hand Project (VHP), which started in 2012 as a University of Victoria, Canada, research project, has designed a highly functional, visually appealing, low-cost hand prosthesis, says Nick Dechev, PhD, PEng, executive director.

The V200 Victoria Hand has a materials cost of roughly $80. For each hand produced, VHP has an overhead cost of $40, pays a person in the user's country about $80 to print and assemble the hand, and another $80 to a prosthetist to fit and work with the patient.

Since June 2016, nearly 100 Victoria Hand devices have been fit to people in Nepal, Cambodia, Haiti, Egypt, Guatemala, Ecuador, Canada, and the United States. In March 2017, VHP received a $250,000 Google Impact Challenge grant specifically to provide service in developing countries, Dechev says. The device is typically worn during cooking, household chores, and light labor office jobs, as well as for cosmesis, he says.

When Jeff Powell was an engineering student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the summer of 2014, he created a prosthetic hand for a local child using a 3D printer and open-source designs. After seeing the positive response, Powell created The Helping Hand Project (The HHP) as a student group and a nonprofit. Donors cover the costs to provide devices to children for free, he says. Currently The HHP focuses on children in the United States in order to build a relationship with the individual and to provide ongoing support. They have fit more than 30 children.