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Freedom with FIN: 3D-Printed Artificial Limb Brings Amputees Back in the Water

Posted by Bryan Potok, CPO on

Northwell Health, a non-profit organization, collaborated with New York-based institutes, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and Eschen Prosthetic and Orthotics, for the development and creation of The FIN.

An amputee wearing the FIN by the pool

What is it?

The FIN is a 3D-printed artificial limb that is usable on both land and water, which allows amputees to use it freely without the need to change their prosthetic leg. The first of its kind, this amphibious prosthesis is 3D printed using 3HTI's printing technology and crafted from carbon fiber enhanced nylon, making it compatible for both land and water use.

The Study

Todd Goldstein, a prosthetic designer at Northwell Health explains, "My hope is that this device creates unforeseen opportunities for amputees everywhere. This study is the first step in making this innovative prosthetic available to the millions of amputees looking to return to the water." 10 participants will be involved in the study and are tasked to provide feedback regarding underwater usage and The FIN's efficiency.

"My hope is that this device creates unforeseen opportunities for amputees everywhere. The study is the first step in making this innovative prosthetic available to the millions of amputees looking to return to the water."

- Todd Goldstein

How does it look like and how does it work?

The FIN has cone-shaped holes on its sides, which allow its wearers to manage their propulsion speed in the water. The holes, which are the key components to this innovative design, control the amount of water that passes through the prosthetic and can be adjusted according to the wearer's preferences. 

Positive Results

So far, participants have had positive experiences with wearing The FIN. Seamus Doherty, one of the participants, explains, "This prosthetic is the answer to my prayers in being able to spend more time with Seamus (Doherty’s son) at the beach and truly being free to come and go in and out of the water."

Northwell Health hopes that this project will successfully yield bigger opportunities and partnerships with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to increase the prosthetic's availability to the general public and veterans in particular. 28-year-old Marine veteran, Kevin Vaughan, who lost his leg in Afghanistan back in 2011, loves how easy it is to move in the water and how it's a "huge step" for him–"I'm not just kicking with one leg anymore".

More hope for amputees and the potential of 3D Printing

In a study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation journal, there are an estimated 1.6 million people living with limb loss in the United States alone, with projections to reach 3.6 million by the year 2050. To address this issue, 3D printing has helped out and explored a number of contributions for amputees all over the world. 

One of them is e-NABLE, an open-source prosthetic organization that visited Haiti to provide 3D-printed limbs for kids who lost their limbs to natural disasters. On the other hand, PSYONIC put up prosthetic clinics in Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico, and carried out its preliminary clinical tests on 3D-printed bionic hands.

The future is bright for 3D printing and its continuous emergence in helping amputees worldwide. With these types of studies and initiatives, it is our hope that quality prosthetic limbs become more affordable and available to individuals who wish to live with ease.

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  • I have a friend 34 year old homeschooling mom who is in dire need of a new prosthetic leg. I believe she may have insurance but it will not cover a regular leg. What can she do to get one of these. Is it more affordable?

    Charlene Green on

  • Looks like a typical water leg with a fin attached. The interesting question is which foot is that, and does it handle salt water and sand terrain. The fin may be more of a hindrance in the surf. Does it have any new features in the socket? Nice to see the problem addressed but would be good to see the primary problems addressed.

    Stan on

  • My left below the knee prosthetic is broken but for the moment still working but the 18 grand price is not doable. My right below the knee prosthetic is 13 years old and still working. SSS no longer wants to replace them so when they go… I will lose my job, car, apartment and freedom.

    Cliff Newman on

  • This sounds amazing. I would love to go swimming again

    Daniel Easterday on

  • I am so pleased to know that even this device helps enable me to not worry about showering or looking for hotels handicap accessible. .
    Thanks so much.
    I hope there are more cosmetic hosiery sources available.
    Along with shoe sources,
    Thnk you.

    Pamela DeLine on

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