On May 18, we outfitted young Elvis with his customized hand prosthesis. A big plus of 3D-printing is that every print can be individual. In this case, to meet the needs for his stump shape, we customized the prothesis by elongating the fixture plate to ensure a good fit.
Another example for customizability is the prosthesis we created for our participant Bitaku. For his prosthesis we carved the model to fit his individual stump shape. At the moment our customizations are done in several steps in professional editing suites but we are working on developing an easy standalone software solution for the process.
At Enevra, our mission is to develop a reliable 3D-printing framework that can be adopted by local orthopedic and medical professionals to provide affordable prostheses to their patients. Our goal is to provide this framework to Enevra-partners in low-income countries. By enabling our partners to use the 3D printing technology, we will achieve two goals: First, we are making prosthetic devices more affordable and easier to manufacture. Thus, more amputees can benefit from a prosthetic device. Second, we are enabling the local professionals to enhance their toolkits. By using our system, partners can create their products faster.
To establish new partnerships in Uganda, Maike and Nikolas traveled to Kampala and had meetings with managers of the Mulago National Hospital and Katalemwa Hospital. We thank the local professionals for their interest and hospitality and we are looking forward to further exchanges.
When set up properly, 3D printing is a robust and reliable process. But in the first days in Uganda we struggled with our initial prints due to the instable power grid. The outages resulted in failed prints that stopped mid-way. To overcome this limitation, we opted for a solution: A UPS, short for uninterruptible power supply. This device ensures that our printer can print independently for as long as 20 minutes on a full charge of the device; thus short outages are now being compensated. We are happy to say that after installing the device, we were able to print without further complications.
When we traveled to Uganda, we already brought ready-made prostheses with us. This served as a backup for potential technical delays and situations where we would need a prosthesis quickly. And indeed, the first prostheses that we used were from this collection. We fitted them to the personal stump-shape of the participant by thermoforming. To ensure an even better fit, we take the measurements of our participants in order to adjust the shaft size for newly printed prostheses. On May 11, we had the chance to fit our first truly tailor-made shaft to our participant Collin.
Kevin conducted a training on how to use the prosthesis in the everyday life. Fastening shoes is a good example for learning how to handle the new prosthesis. It is important to us that manufacturing and delivering our prostheses is not the last step in the cycle. In previous attempts of organizations to improve the prosthetic situation in African countries, a lot of effort was put towards handing out as many products as possible while neglecting the after-care. This results in the neglection of the device and an inability to properly use it. Therefore, we emphasize the importance of training and after-care to help amputees to benefit from our prostheses over the long term.
It was a pleasure to work with Collin and fitting his prosthesis. We are looking forward to his real-world-feedback!
Today we had a new study participant. He is a priest at the local church and even invited us to a service in two weeks. We are very happy to have taken measurements from a lot of participants already and we are looking forward to print their prostheses and how the reception will be.
We made another trip to the neighborhood and were once again impressed by the resourcefulness of the locals and their ability to create things with limited means. It also makes us appreciate more what we normally accept as given and spurs us on.
To tailor our prostheses to local demands we try to use widely available materials and local sources. To adjust the color of the printed prosthesis, we use spray paint. Today we made a trip to Mukono to try the locally available paint.
After initial technical difficulties we are set and have printed the first hand prostheses. We already had the honor to work together with our first study participant and fitted our first hand prosthesis.
Kevin and Nikolas made a trip to Mukono together with Dieter, the orthopedic technician who leads ProUganda’s workshop. The city is very busy and there is a lot of traffic.
Furthermore, we conducted a very insightful interview with the amputee Mario, our local “prosthesis ambassador”, who helped us to understand amputees in Uganda better and established connections to other amputees. A first short glimpse of the interview can be found on our instagram post.
A big challenge for amputees in Uganda are the relatively high travel costs. To make it easier for amputees to participate in our study, we take over the costs for their journey.
On May 1st, 2021, our team members Maike, Kevin and Nikolas started their journey to Uganda. We are working together with ProUganda e.V. at their local prostheses workshop. ProUganda (https://prouganda.de) is a German association of dedicated orthopedics who built and run a prosthesis workshop in Mukono, Uganda. We are grateful for the opportunity to test our prostheses in cooperation with their team!