Although the perennial buzz around 3D printing has yet to materialize into a proper industrial revolution, the increasingly powerful technology has gained some traction in the medical world, where customizability and on-site availability trump the constraints of cost and scale. It may come as no surprise, then, that one of the 2014 Core77 Design Awards honorees that caught our eye was developed by a previous winner, whose work we’d covered as far back as 2010, before the the inaugural awards program.
This time around, Scott Summit took Professional Runner Up in the Social Impact category with the EKSO personal exoskeleton, a mecha-like medical device at the intersection of robotics, rehabilitation and digital fabrication. As a replacement for a wheelchair, the device has the potential to revolutionize mobility for paraplegic individuals.
Summit shares credit with Gustavo Fricke, 3D Systems and Ekso Bionics, all of whom worked together to print parts that connect a person to their robot as naturally and respectively as possible. “This is an unusual design effort on every front,” designer Scott Summit says. “We had challenges with the technical details, since these are massive files, and almost entirely organic, but very precise. It’s also very tricky to scan a paralyzed person, and expect the data to be exactly as desired. We found that even the slightest detail could lead to dangerous bruising.” All of that considered, the prototypes have been met with a great response. The test pilot loves it so much, she wants to use it all of the time. But like many of these things go, the team has to wait until the design is FDA certified to be worn daily.