BeSpoke Innovations: An Artistic Take on Prosthetics

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Photo: 3D Systems

Last week I told you about a series I’m excited to share with you. Having accumulated many links to new designs that are happening in the prosthetic world, I decided to share a few of them.

Photo: Survivor
Photo: Survivor

The first company I want to share with you is one that I’ve known about for several years. It’s called BeSpoke and it’s based in San Francisco. One of the spokesmen for BeSpoke, and one if its happiest clients as well, is a guy named Chad Crittenden. Chad was the first amputee to appear on the show Survivor, and after he found out about the exciting new things a guy named Scott Summit was doing at BeSpoke, he jumped aboard.

BeSpoke designs something called “fairings.” They don’t build prosthetic limbs. They build covers for limbs. Which means an amputee can get a leg that fits well at his prosthetist’s office, then click on the BeSpoke covering on the days he wants to dress it up or show it off. Adding just over six ounces, it’s a lightweight fashion accessory. At BeSpoke they say, “Fairings invite an expression of personality and individuality that has never before been possible.”

chad skateboard 1
Photo: 3D Systems

I was happy to have my old foot replaced by a limb that worked and I’ve never been shy about showing it off. More and more amputees are putting away the long pants and displaying their bionic limbs proudly. A prosthetic limb can now become a work of art, a way to express someone’s unique character. I’ve shown you some of the creative things that can be done by laminating designs onto a prosthetic socket, but with a fairing by BeSpoke, the design is removable, and much more 3-D.

Photo: 3D Systems
deb_5527_FPO_0 (1)
Photo: 3D Systems

A fairing by BeSpoke comes in two parts, which are screwed together. In theory, an amputee could have many different designs, to represent their mood or outfit of the day. Some clients want to get back on their motorcycle, and having a leg that blends in to the metal is right up their alley.

Many women amputees want to feel pretty again. Instead of covering a flesh covered socket with pantyhose or long skirts, the lacy designs on some fairings can actually complement their outfit.

The 3-D printer makes this all possible. To begin the process, a patient comes into the office and has their sound leg scanned. This gives the fairing an exact shape to follow, to make both legs symmetrical. Here is a video that shows the process. This is an important part of the process.

Many times people are drawn to look at my leg in public because it’s a different shape than my sound leg. It’s smaller, thinner, and visually distracting. Chad, who wears his fairings often, noticed immediately that even though he was technically showing more metal, he got fewer stares.

Photo: 3D Systems

In fact, it changed the way he played soccer. With his black fairing, he was able to run out onto the field with two legs that had the same shape. He stopped being “that amputee guy on the other team” and just became “that awesome player on the other team.” Many opposing team players didn’t even know he was an amputee.

Once the shape is scanned, a person picks their design. Some like masculine, some like feminine. Some like dainty and subtle, some like aggressive and loud. You can pick leather, metal, chrome.. The possibilities are almost endless. Whatever design is chosen is then made with a 3-D printer. It’s that easy.

Here are some of the designs that BeSpoke has already created:

Although not often used in the United States, the word BeSpoke means custom made. It’s an appropriate name for a company that has changed the idea of prosthetic limbs from purely functional, to specific, creative, personal works of art.

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