3D printed robotic exoskeleton allows paraplegic to walk
EksoBionics’ Ekso Suit custom tailored using 3D Systems additive manufacturing equipment.
Ekso Bionics recently showed off a 3D printed version of its hybrid robotic exoskeleton at a Singularity University-hosted event in Budapest. The company’s Ekso Suit was tailor made for Amanda Boxtel, who was paralyzed from the waist down following a skiing accident in the 1990s.
Developed as a physical therapy device to help those who suffer from spinal cord injuries, stokes and other debilitating conditions learn how to walk again, the Exo Suit incorporates motors at the user’s hips and knees to control forward gait. Lithium batteries at the shoulder blades allow the suit to function untethered.
In addition, the suit has a series of modes that progressively teach the user how to use the suit. In FirstStep walk mode, for example, a physical therapist pushes buttons to initiate each step. Ultimately, users progress to ProStep mode in which the suit senses the weight shift of the user to anticipate and take steps.
To customize the suit for Amanda Boxtel, 3D Systems designers used a 3D scanner to digitize her legs and spine to help form the harness assemblies. The 3D printed components were then integrated into the Ekso Suit.
Founded in 2005, Ekso Bionics grew out of UC Berkeley’s Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory with research grants from the Department of Defense and licensed technology to the Lockheed Martin. To date, the company has sold approximately 30 Ekso Suits to rehabilitation centers.