LimbX Project: 3D Printed Prosthetics for War-Injured Sri Lankans

War, a devastating word. Not only does it ravage the earth, it causes harm to mankind, easily injuring the human body and mind. While the civil war in Sri Lanka ended in 2009, the aftermath can still be seen and felt today. As the country is still rebuilding, the core — the people that make up Sri Lanka — is still raw from war, more so for those with debilitating injuries. More than 160,000 people with missing limbs, this was what Muhamad Hariz Hazwan Mohd Zarir (Hariz Hazwan) — a doctor from Malaysia — discovered, on his humanitarian mission to Sri Lanka.

Hariz Hazwan was in Sri Lanka as part of a MyCorps programme (a volunteering programme that aims to shape self and identity values in Malaysian youths through experiences, contributions and duties in helping others). He was placed in the northern part of the country and saw with his own eyes the devastating effects of war. The number of Sri Lankans with missing limbs grows as each day passes as many landmines are still active. Because of this, Hariz initiated the LimbX project.

With strong determination, he reached out to everyone he could think of with experience in prosthethics. These inlude Dr Adam Arabian, a professor from Seattle Pacific University who conducts researches in the development and evaluation of low-cost prosthetic devices with specific interests in international undeserved populations; LimbForge, a non-profit organization that provides tools and training for clinicians to quickly provide patients with high-quality and cost-effective 3D printed prosthetics; Jaffna Jaipur Centre for Disability Rehabilitation (JJCDR), the first prosthetic and rehab center in the area and among the first in the country, as well as mechanical engineering experts from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Jaffna. From their experience and expertise, he found out that the available prosthetics are heavy and uncomfortable. There were some not even functioning as the wiring inside the prosthetics were spoilt and no one to fix them. Because of that, he got in a Malaysian engineering research company — MyCRO — which sponsored a training session on 3D prosthetics printing for 16 participants.

A few positive outcomes resulted from the workshop. One of them being that the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Jaffna expressed interest in opening a prosthetics center. The center, which will serve as both a clinic and prosthetic research center, has received grants from the governments of Malaysia and Sri Lanka, and is expected to become operational in January. According to Hariz, they were in the process of setting up the whole center with collaborations from around the world. Even the 3D printer brought in for the programme was the first 3D printer in that region of the country, the town of Kilinochchi.

However, Hariz also pointed out that these clinics would not be relying solely on 3D printing technology. He hopes that a new area of research — the hybrid 3D printer/propylene technology system — would soon materialize from their ongoing researches that would also benefit the people.

(Photos by Hariz Hazwan)

Sonam Chodron

Sonam Chodron is an avid traveler who loves writing about lifestyle and tech. She currently works as a full-time editor and English teacher.

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