3D-printing is bringing accessibility of important tools to people all over the world at a more efficient cost and time than ever before. One of the ways it is already changing lives is at UNYQ, a company bringing edgy graphics and design structures to prosthetic fairings.
Six-year old Gianna Mantucca was born with her left leg developing much slower than her right, and had to amputate her leg after only sixteen months old. Today she plays soccer, is on the swim team, and learning gymnastics. She reserves her UNYQ cover for playing dress up, so show off her personal aesthetic in neon pink and gold. The woodland graphics on her fairing are synonymous with her love for tree climbing, and inspired from a trip to Yosemite National Park she took with her parents.
Her mother Devon says of Gianna’s new leg, “People stare because its cool. She’s proud of it. It makes her proud to be special in a positive way, to show off her personality.”
That sense of pride and normalcy is what UNYQ CEO Eythor Bender always wanted to help restore within people with limb loss or disabilities, through providing mobility and healthy lifestyles with his products.
Bender is probably most famed for unveiling the Flex-Foot Cheetah in 1996 while President at Ossur Americas, the international leader in prosthetic solutions. The Flex-Foot Cheetah is an agile sprinting foot that has been worn by Olympic runners with below-knee amputations.
The attention received was both for the technical innovation and for giving wearers an unfair advantage. Bender was also the CEO for both Ekso Bionics and Rex Bionics, developers of the first bionic suits, giving mobility to paraplegics.
While at Ossur, Bender met Manuel Boza, the Chief Marketing Officer of UNYQ. Boza was Ossur’s Manager of Sales in Southern Europe, as well as a robotics engineer and above-knee amputee. Boza specializes in 3D-printing and had already been testing the design and creation of prosthetic fairings starting in 2012, before he brought his designs to Bender in 2014. Together the team worked to lesson the costs of fairings, and to streamline the process.
UNYQ uses 3D-printing technology to sculpt designs for a reasonable $500- $1,000, incredibly affordable for prosthetic covers which can traditionally run amputees $4,000-$6,000. Customers are able to order their fairings over the website, which will arrive within just a few weeks.
Bender explains, “The way we capture the data is, I think, the unique part because we were able to do that working with users taking their own photos of their sound leg as well as the prosthetic leg. We certainly can use scanning devices as well, but in this day and age being able to simple make completely symmetrical prosthetic fairings from data that amputees take on their iPhones in the homes is pretty revolutionary.”
By working with designers, customers are able to custom-design one-of-a-kind handcrafted pieces that synchronize with their body and their signature style. Made of 3D-printed polymer, Symmetric Contour Technology is used to ensure the fairings match with any prosthetic limb, whether above-knee or below-knee. The fairings are also affordable enough where customers can purchase them as expressive accessories, to be dressed up or down, depending on their mood, much like a pair of eyeglasses. This has a significant psychological effect on the amputee who may otherwise associate their missing limb with trauma and suffering. UNYQ brings dignity, control and pride back to their customers.
Alessandra Calzolaio, one of UNYQ’s customers who has her bio featured on the website, lost her leg at 15 when she was pulled under a moving train. “I love UNYQ because, in one word, its innovative. It’s a new mode to surpass the barriers of the amputations. It allows you to be fashionable.”
Likewise, amputee Alex Minsky, has worn UNYQ covers while walking the runway. Alex is a tattoo aficionado, model, body builder, and fitness coach– and he had his leg amputated after his first tour in Afghanistan when a Humvee ran over a roadside bomb. His fairing featured on the website is a result of the custom-design process.
He wanted a cover that would match the textures of art created by his tattoos, and by working closely with one of UNYQ’s graphic designers, they sculpted something entirely personal. The result is a wildly colorful design of a Phoenix rising from the ashes, symbolic of his own accomplishments out of the darker times in his life. Because of UNYQ, he is able to express himself on every fleshy and polymer inch of his body.
Children can also benefit from UNYQ’s affordability and expressiveness.
Growth spurts often cause added difficulty for children with disabilities, as prosthetics need to grow along with the size of the child. But 3D-printing eases the procedure and costs of out-growing a prosthetic, and UNYQ offers an opportunity for kids to take pride in their disability that previous generations did not have the option of having.
UNYQ is more than just 3D-printing technology– its innovation is in bringing pride and fashion to those with limb loss and disability. Amputees are given the option to fully express their interests and personalities through their fairings, attracting positive attention from others and feeling limitless in what they can do. What could be more revolutionary than that? Know more