prosthesis prosthesis It takes 10 weeks to make a traditional prosthesis. With 3D printing, it only takes five days. (Photo: Screenshot / Youtube)

This Paralympian helped build her own artificial limb

German Denise Schindler will be the first cyclist ever to compete with a 3D-printed prosthesis.

German cyclist Denise Schindler will make history in the Paralympics in Rio whether she wins or loses. She'll be the first cyclist ever to compete in the Paralympics using a 3D-printed artificial limb.

Schindler is the perfect person to try out this new technology, which is lighter, easier to move around and less expensive than traditional models. Schindler is a Paralympics silver medalist who works at Autodesk, a San Francisco-based software company, where she's been designing the new prosthesis for the past year and a half.

Between artificial limbs and printed hearts, 3D printing seems to be having a moment in the medical community. While this new, high-performance prosthesis was ultimately printed in San Francisco, it was designed in different parts of the world. Engineers in Germany, England and Portland worked together to make it, and Autodesk’s R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel, played a major role.

"We’re at a stage, technology wise, to initiate a paradigm shift in this industry,” explained Paul Sohi, a product designer at Autodesk who has been working on the prosthesis.

Schindler got into a tram accident as a toddler and had to have her leg amputated below the knee. Her experience inspired her to create a prosthesis that's lighter, more powerful and more aerodynamic than other models. A traditional prosthesis weighs about 3.3 pounds and costs $16,000. This new model weighs 2.2 pounds and costs about $4,700.

“This is an excellent example to the way in which technology and innovative tools change the way in which we make things,” explained Eitan Tzarfati, who heads Autodesk's R&D center in Israel. “In using generative design powered by algorithms we are at the beginning of a revolution in design and manufacturing. Human designers cooperate with powerful computers and advanced software in dealing with design limits.”

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This Paralympian helped build her own artificial limb
German Denise Schindler will be the first cyclist ever to compete with a 3D-printed prosthesis.