3D Printing Prosthetics for Wounded in Sierra Leone


27-year-old doctoral student David Sengeh is using 3D printing to help change the world around him, offering hope to amputees and war victims who are struggling to live normal lives after tragedy.

Sengeh grew up in Sierra Leone during the decade-long civil war that ravaged the country and left thousands of men, women, and children with missing legs and arms.

Sengeh, a now doctoral student, has decided to use 3D printing and advanced math to create a new type of prosthetic, one which he believes can help to improve the lives of amputees.

The problem with most prosthetics today, according to Sengeh, is that they don’t fit right. Many who lost their limbs during the war won’t wear prosthetics because the limb sockets aren’t tailored to their bodies and therefore don’t fit properly which can cause blisters and pressure sores.

Seeing a need for prosthetics that fit better, and more comfortably, Sengeh set out to focus his PHD research on custom prosthetic sockets that can be made quickly and cheaply.

His technique involves using an MRI scan to capture a 3D picture of what remains of the limb. Then, using a technique that’s been used for years in the aerospace and automotive industries, the MRI scan is transformed into a mathematical model for a prosthetic limb which identifies specific points of stress and is then 3D printed –making the resulting limb custom-fit and comfortable to wear. And since they are 3D printed, they are easier to produce, allowing even those who are less tech-savvy to produce prosthetic limbs as well.

By using a software-based process for creating the prosthetics, Sengeh hopes that he has found a way to transfer his expertise to anywhere in the world, allowing 3D printed comfortable prosthetics to become available for those who need them.