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My name is Ben. I’ve been on an extraordinary journey over the past two years which started when my son was born. Sadly, Sol lost most of his lower left arm due to a blood clot following an injury at birth.
I responded as any parent would have. I looked into how Sol would be treated and what support we could expect. I quickly learned that many toddlers abandon prosthetics early on and I wanted to know why so Sol would stand a better chance. Calling on my psychology background and my passion for engineering, I started doing my own research. I noticed big gaps in what was being offered and saw lost opportunities at several key stages. Rather than complain, I decided to do something about it and set up Ambionics.
(Above) Dressing change at Alder Hey Children's Hospital post-amputation
We deliver a totally new kind of online service and are currently developing unique functional prosthetic solutions (including our world famous hydraulic technology) for children with upper limb differences everywhere.
Our first press release (March 1 this year) went viral. The response was truly out of this world and our story was covered in every Country and in every language. Most of the media attention centred on the hydraulic prototype we are working on.
It's inspired by the way spiders use fluid to move their legs (to find out more please follow the press links below). However, there is much more to Ambionics besides this. Let me explain...
Children are usually given their first prosthetic arm between 6 and 12 months of age. We introduce prosthetics much sooner - one month after an amputation (as in the case of my son) or from the moment a child with a limb difference arrives home from hospital. The director for innovation at NHS Wales described our research based approach as ‘potentially revolutionary’.
Replace casting with scanning
Normally parents must take time off work to attend appointments at specialist centres which might be hundreds of miles away from where they live. A prosthetist then creates a plaster cast mould of the affected arm and this is used to make a crude socket. Young children often find this stressful. They can wriggle and resist when the cast is taken and any sudden jerk can result in a poor fitting socket and a poor first experience of prosthetics.
At Ambionics, parents simply scan their child’s arm while they are asleep then upload the file to our online platform. We do the rest and deliver the prosthetic through the postal service! Simple! It takes about five minutes to do the scan and 40 minutes for us to model a socket. It’s worth noting that within two years all phones and hand held devices will come with a scanning application built in.
(above) The first 3D printed prototype, April 2016
5 Day Turn Around (compared to 6 - 11 weeks)
A traditional prosthetic can take as long as 11 weeks to make.
From a fresh scan, we can produce a new arm within a matter of hours
If a traditional prosthetic is misplaced or damaged it can take five weeks to get an appointment for a re-mould, and another 11 weeks before the replacement arm arrives (that’s four months without an arm!). At Ambionics we just print another from the digital copy we keep.
Traditional prosthetics are discarded after use. To help keep costs down and reduce our carbon footprint, Ambionics only replace parts that need replacing or upgrading – this is usually just the detachable socket.
Managing Growth Rates
Traditionally, children receive two arms per year (based on NHS service) which means that for a lot of the time the socket is either too tight or too loose. Plaster cast arms are designed to be slightly oversized so children can grow into them. This is a false economy in our opinion because loose or unsecure arms and ones that are too tight don’t inspire confidence. It’s easy to see why so many children stop wearing them. We recommend at least four or five sockets per year depending on the needs of the child.
Making Devices More Accessible
In most cases, cosmetic arms are made of fibre glass coated in varnish with a functionless silicone hand (often described as creepy looking). These are surprisingly expensive for what they are! In the US, a cosmetic arm can cost as much as $5,000! Our knowledge of 3D printing and scanning has the potential to seriously reduce these costs, making prosthetics accessible to children everywhere (and anywhere!)
We also believe in customising the look of the hand. We want to help break the stigma of 'cosmetic' prosthetic devices by offering bold colours and a choice of designs for infants.
We even encourage older children to take part in the design process. What better way to meet a young person's needs than to enable them to produce their own assistive devices and accessories!
By Lidless Eye
Last up in my recently finished miniatures are a set of Animal-Folk from Reaper, all part of Bones 3. I believe some are Lyncanthropes and some from the Savage Avatars sets.
The Gorilla King, with hat:
Werebear don't care:
A rather standard Werewolf:
Wereboar gotta go fast:
And a Water-Buffalo-Man. I realized I painted him after a Yak, then remembered that's not the animal he was meant to be.
By Lidless Eye
Finished with a little time to spare before the end of the year, I did up another group of holiday-themed miniatures, all from Reaper.
And try not to get dragged directly to hell by the Krampus.
A more traditional Kringle:
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