Walking, running, and cycling—three things that Fahed Mohamad Ali never imagined he could do again. For more than 15 years, 25-year-old Ali navigated the world in a wheelchair, as he donned wooden prosthetic legs that were more cosmetic than functional. One year after the UAE fitted its first fully 3D printed prosthetic leg, this double-amputee's life changed considerably when he received two 3D-printed transtibial prosthetics that secure just below his knees.
“It has been simply amazing. These prosthetics have changed the way I walk, run, cycle and do everything else,” he shared with Gulf News this week.
“I feel a big difference when I am wearing them in terms of stability, comfort levels and functionality. I can actually feel my toes when I walk, and I feel no different to anyone else. I am very happy to receive this treatment in my own country, and I look at the future with a lot of promise.”
Ali works as an assistant engineer at the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), an advocate of 3D printing. The company devotes much of its resources to 3D printing laboratories and Innovation Centers, working towards Dubai's goal of becoming a worldwide proponent of 3D printing. Several companies were responsible for gifting Fahed with his new prosthetic legs: the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), which led the initiative; Mediclinic, Mercuris (a German company), and Immensa Technology Labs— Dubai’s very first 3D printing facility.
The color of Ali's prosthetic legs was nothing short of exciting, bright, and happy, which is exactly what he wanted. “I chose orange as it is an attractive and positive colour,” he shared. “I even wear shorts now as I am confident and can show off my prosthetics.”
Mediclinic's certified orthopedic prosthetist, Sebastian Giede explained how beneficial 3D printing is when it comes to prosthetics: it's customizable, lightweight, crafted with durable materials, and isn't that expensive when it comes to replacements. “We conducted several 3D scans of the patient’s amputated legs,” he said. “After that, we used a CAD software program to design and modify the inner shape of the prosthesis. Then the test socket was 3D printed so that we could use it on the patient to control the size and make changes that will help provide the patient with maximum comfort and functional alignment.”
Both test and final sockets that make up about 40% of the prosthetics were printed in Dubai, while the rest of the legs were printed in Germany. In the long run, 3D printed prosthetics will be available to anyone who needs them, according to the Director of the Executive Office of Organizational Transformation, Dr. Mohammad Al Reda. “The calculations can be taken here in Dubai locally,” he said. “We use a certain degree of artificial intelligence to calculate the dimensions of what’s remaining of the limb and how to generate the 3D-printed limb for the patient.”
Ali's story is yet another example of innovation within the prosthetic world and the UAE is definitely on the right track to making 3D printing a standard.