Rosie Brave, a student at the University of Plymouth, England, studying toward a research master’s degree in digital art and technology, and business partner Samantha Jackman have reimagined the design of breast prostheses and created a colorful, lightweight, and breathable prosthesis that was designed in collaboration with people who have undergone mastectomy.
“The idea came from Sam’s mother having a mastectomy, and hating the prosthesis she had,” said Brave. “I’m always questioning why things are the way they are and how they can be better, and I love color. Part of the issue with the prosthesis was that it was beige, and it was bland, and it didn’t match her skin tone. It was trying to look real but failing.”
The co-design process with breast prosthesis users was conducted through design workshops and focus groups. Brave used 3D-printing technology, allowing her to move away from realism in the design of her breast forms, and experiment with different concepts and structures that could also help with the discomfort of traditional prostheses.
“We thought if we can make it look attractive then we’re winning, but actually the feedback was, you need to deal with the heaviness and the hotness,” said Brave. “That’s why we started to create things that were breathable, with an open structure that would let the air pass through. This structure is also part of the decorative element, but manufacturing it is quite tricky…. Unfortunately the cost of 3D printing in silicone is currently prohibitive, and people really want something affordable.”
Brave and Jackman and their company, Boost, were finalists in this year’s Design Council Spark program that supports product innovation in the United Kingdom, winning £15,000 (about $19,703). They are currently seeking further investment to move to full product testing.
“If someone has had a limb amputation it’s quite apparent, but this is hidden, and sometimes people’s best friends don’t even know. That’s fine if that’s what you want, but I don’t think everyone wants that. I think it’s still taboo, and we’re trying to push back against that a little,” said Brave.
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by the University of Plymouth.