At the Paralympic Games in Rio, German athlete Denise Schindler became the first cyclist to compete with a 3D-printed prosthesis.
In partnership with Autodesk, a new 3D-printed prosthesis was specially developed to the althlete's measurements using 3D scanning technologies.
Close to 52 digital versions of the prosthesis were designed in order to achieve the perfect model that fit the athlete's measurements and met the constraints of cycling.
Composed of polycarbonate and carbon fibre, materials that provide improved aerodynamics and flexibility, it only weighs 812 grams compared to the 1.2 kg prosthesis that Denise wore to the London Olympics. In addition to providing improved performance, the new process reduces manufacturing times from eight weeks to barely 48 hours.
However, beyond athletic performance and her own personal success, Denis is competing for another cause: making the most elaborate prosthetics available to as many people as possible. Paul Sohi, who designed the prosthesis at Autodesk wants the same thing, stating that the process and technology used for Denise Schindler's prosthesis could be used "to produce prosthetics for everyday use". He believes that 3D printing opens up a great many possibilities. "It could be a way of replicating certain body parts enabling surgeons to practice surgery before doing it 'for real'".
In the meantime, Denise Schindler took the silver in the Time Trial on track event and the bronze in the road race event.
The woman who lost a leg in an accident two years ago has already set her sights on the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
She is banking on her partnership with Autodesk to open a design process and produce a 3D-printed prosthesis. "It would be great if children could have various prostheses for sports instead of a single prosthesis for walking". It is currently only a pilot project, but it has the potential to make it big.