People will soon be able to create their own prosthetic limbs with the opening of a new state-of-the-art facility in Lancashire.
A Fab Lab will form the centrepiece of Blackburn’s new Making Rooms facility, which is due to open in November, giving entrepreneurs and the general public access to the latest advanced digital manufacturing equipment, including 3D printers and laser cutters.
The three-storey building will be a hub for creative, artistic, digital and technological innovation and comes equipped with £250,000 of machinery.
Dr Eddie Kirkby is the director of Making Rooms and believes patients will use it to customise basic health equipment or build new ones.
Speaking ahead of BusinessCloud’s ‘Transforming healthcare through technology’ conference on November 23 in Chorley, he explained: “The problem with assisted living devices like walking sticks and wheelchairs is they’re mass manufactured so they tend to be functional and clunky.
“Patients want something that is designed for them and Making Rooms and the Fab Lab make that cost effective. What we’re doing is customising healthcare.
“If someone wanted to manufacture a prosthetic limb we could do that, but people could approach us for simpler things. For example we had a guy come in who has got one leg shorter than the other.
“The NHS give him three pairs of shoes a year with one of them built up by 10mm. He was going on a pilgrimage and he asked us if we could build up a pair of flip flops.”
In nearby Royal Blackburn Hospital, a £1.1m ‘super surgeon’ – the Da Vinci Robot – is nearing its 100th operation since it first started being used in 2015.
Kirkby said early stage discussions had taken place with a number of clinicians to create 3D models from parts of a patient’s MRI scan so they can practise on it before the surgery takes place.
“Technology is hugely important to healthcare,” he said. “What we’re able to do is personalise products for the public in a cost effective way.
“It could be a prosthetic hand or it could be a tin opener for someone suffering from arthritis.”
The new facility has been been funded by Arts Council England, Blackburn with Darwen Council and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.
It also includes artist studios, flexible workspaces, a café, exhibition space and areas for workshops.
- BusinessCloud’s ‘Transforming healthcare through technology’ conference and exhibition takes place between 9am-12.30pm on November 23 at Chorley Town Hall. Admission is free. To register go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/transforming-healthcare-through-technology-tickets-27524503531