Bespoke Prosthetic Fairings: The Art of Personalized Medicine

“Humans are anything but one-size-fits-all, and we want to recognize that,” Scott Summit

A single thread ties Bespoke’s philosophy, work, goals and methods. “Humans are anything but one-size-fits-all, and we want to recognize that,” say the company’s founders. Simply put, for Bespoke, it’s personal.

Bespoke Products Group at 3D Systems creates a variety of customized medical devices, famously their prosthetic leg fairings, which bring style and aesthetics to otherwise robotic prosthetics. Bespoke Fairings are specialized covers for prosthetic limbs that both recreate the body’s form and impart an expression of the patient’s personality. Each fairing can be personalized with patterns, graphics and varying materials, in a sense, redefining the prosthetic as fashion statement and piece of art.

“I wanted to create a leg that had a level of humanity,” said Scott Summit, 3D Systems’ Director of Technology for Bespoke Products. “It’s unfortunate that people have had a product that’s such a major part of their lives that was so underdesigned.” So he creates each fairing to be a beautiful, unique expression, each one representing Bespoke’s goal to keep it personal.

Likewise, the emphasis on personalized solutions echoes throughout 3D Systems’ deep commitment healthcare, as we help providers of all specialties to create more patient-specific implants and drill guides, work faster and safer, and improve patient outcomes. Such work gels so perfectly 3D technology, because the power of 3D scanning and 3D printing allows medical designers like Summit to create accurate, complex physical forms that can’t be manufactured any other way.

The process for building each fairing begins by taking a scan of both the patient’s “sound side” leg and the prosthetic leg. Designers can then superimpose the sound side leg over the prosthetic leg and use this as the basis for the final design to and to restore overall body symmetry.

After scanning, the customer comes in to direct the entire design process. He or she can choose from a number of existing templates, or create something completely unique. The key is to capture the wearer’s personality, and to make them feel and look great. In the past fairings have been adorned with leather, metal plating, wood inlays, tattoos, decorative cut-outs and patterns, graphics and more.

The beauty of the process is that, with 3D printing from 3D Systems, designs aren’t ever curbed by manufacturing challenges. Rather, personalization comes full circle because the customer can have exactly what they want, regardless of geometry. So after the final design is 3D printed, designers apply additional materials, finish graphics and perfect the chosen finish. The final fairing is lightweight, durable, and in some cases dishwasher safe.

For many of the people who have long since felt incomplete or even bored by their generic prosthetic leg, this whole process is a real journey of empowerment. Deborah, a proud Bespoke customer who lost her leg in a motorcycle accident, chooses one of her four fairings every day, depending on her attire and mood. She wears skirts at every opportunity and sees her fairings as a way to show off her prosthetic rather than hiding it. Those around her have certainly taken notice, as reactions have changed from uncomfortable curiosity to admiration. People now use words like “cool” and “sexy” to describe her leg.

There’s also James, who designed a nickel and black fairing to match his Harley, and Chris who uses a sport fairing with built-in shin guard for when he plays soccer. It seems that for every Bespoke fairing, stories of people embracing and connecting with their prosthetic limbs, like these, will keep popping up. It’s these types of ordinary-to-extraordinary transformations 3D Systems is so proud to be a part of, and they propel us to keep reaching forward for the exciting technologies to come.