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Branching off from the 3D printed functional prosthetic hand our startup was looking to commercialize, we discovered an even greater need that could be solved by taking advantage of additive manufacturing.  This need was for comfortable prosthesis sockets. To commemorate this pivot, we decided to rebrand the startup as “Adaprox” versus “Gauntlet Initiative.”

The socket in question is not a joint, but the part of a prosthetic limb that connects to the user’s residual limb. Essentially, it is a customized shoe. Most prostheses are not permanently integrated into the skeletal system, and these sockets serve as a sturdy, yet removable, connection.

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While many factors are important in a socket, the most important is comfort. Much like a shoe, if it isn’t comfortable, it won’t be used. However, the nature of the amputation itself, let alone the manufacturing process, makes it difficult to achieve comfort.

It was this manufacturing process we looked to improve upon. The current process is as much an art as it is science. The prosthetist will take a plaster cast of the patient’s residual limb and from that sculpt a ‘check socket’ that will be subjected to a test and reform process. We hypothesized that if the manufacturing process was to take in more information and use digital manufacturing, a more comfortable socket could be achieved those created through the conventional method. Our workflow involved a digital scanner and the doctor marking the areas of sensitivity. From this input, a digital socket could be produced and manufactured.

I visited a friend at Walter Reed hospital, renown for their work with prostheses, to show him our work and get the opinions of his doctors. It was on that visit that I learned critical information that would pivot the entire plan. There I learned that it is not only important to have the socket be data driven, but to have it be even more data driven than we previously planned. The sculpting needed to be removed as much as possible. There needed to be more sources of input versus just a topographical scan. We needed to go deeper.

It was at this time I came to realize that this was turning into a research project versus a process for commercialization. I also came to realize that MIT’s work on the subject was, in my opinion after visiting Walter Reed, on the right track. For these reasons, I turned down a deal with an investment group and went back to the drawing board. Although this particular startup did not come to fruition, it did not diminish my focus on bionics.

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