We live in truly amazing times. Research and scientific advances have brought us to the brink of a day when the human body need no longer be subject to the whims of nature or the frailties of its construction.
Amanda Boxtel stands – literally – as living proof of that new paradigm.
Boxtel was the victim of a horrific fall while skiing in Aspen, CO. A cartwheeling, freakish somersault down the mountainside that day left her paralyzed from the waist down, and her doctor delivered the bad news: Amanda would never walk again.
This week, despite her paralysis, Amanda Boxtel took a stroll through Budapest. Boxtel stood upright and 'walked' in defiance of that shattering day at the end of February 1992.
"After years of dreaming about it, I am deeply grateful and thrilled to be making history by walking tall in the first ever 3D printed Ekso-Suit, made specifically for me," said Boxtel. "This project represents the triumph of human creativity and technology that converged to restore my authentic functionality in a stunningly beautiful, fashionable and organic design."
The custom-tailored and 3D printed Ekso-Suit created by designers at 3D Systems was the result of 3D scanning which digitized the contours of Amanda's thighs, shins and spine. Those models were then used to create a personalized, three-dimensional base to outline the shape into which the required assemblies were incorporated.
A series of highly sophisticated mechanical actuators and controls, manufactured and provided by Ekso Bionics, were integrated with other 3D printed components to create the bespoke suit. The Ekso is a wearable bionic suit made to enable individuals with lower extremity weakness or paralysis to stand up and walk with a natural, full weight bearing, reciprocal gait. The device works by using the wearer's weight shifts to activate sensors to initiate steps as battery-powered motors drive the legs.
Once known as Berkeley Bionics, Ekso Bionics was founded in Berkeley, California in 2005. Working in conjunction with UC Berkeley and receiving research grants from the Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin Corporation, Ekso Bionics has engaged in pioneering work in the field of exoskeletons. They've focused their efforts on designing and creating innovative solutions for augmenting human mobility and capability.
Avi Reichental, President and CEO of 3D Systems, was on hand to see the project unfold.
"I believe that the most beautiful and functional designs have already been patented by nature," Reichental said. "Inspired by Amanda's incredible spirit, we were able to harness nature's beauty with 3D printed functionality and freedom of creation to allow her body and spirit to soar."