Interview with Brent Wright: 3D Printed Orthotics and Prosthetics

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W. Brent Wright is an ABC-Certified Prosthetist and BOC-Certified Orthotist with Eastpoint Prosthetics and Orthotics in Raleigh, NC.  He has been in the field since he started as a technician at age 16 and has seen firsthand how additive technology is evolving and impacts patients not only in the US but also in the developing world. Brent is pioneering techniques to effectively use additive technology such as MultiJet Fusion and Selective Laser Sintering to create dynamic prostheses that are light as well as flexible.  He is excited that prosthetists have a chance to be a part of the industrial revolution where mass customization and patient outcomes collide.  

Brent is the Clinical Director of LifeNabled, a non-profit that specializes in manufacturing all-new low-cost, and high-quality prostheses.  LifeNabled has developed a scanning app for the iPad and iPhone called Digiscan3D and also has developed a suitcase 3D printer that can be deployed anywhere in the world. Brent will be speaking at the upcoming 3D printing for orthotics and prosthetic webinar.

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D Printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?

Brent: I remember in the mid-1990’s going to visit the Northwestern University Prosthetic and Orthotic Center and I saw one of the original printers laying down a thick bead to create a socket.  I couldn’t believe it but I knew it was neat, little did I know that it was foreshadowing for what I am doing now.

Additive O&P

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D Printing ?

Brent: In 2014, I had just completed a prosthetic clinic in Guatemala.  We were so tired from working around the clock to evaluate, fabricate, and fit the prostheses and I knew there had to be a better way.  Materials for 3D printing were not strong enough but I decided I would have to dip my toes into digital fabrication.  I learned how to scan and I started learning a few different CAD packages.

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D Printing?

Brent: My dad is my inspiration.  He is the most talented engineer in the world.  He would be able to command a mint in the commercial world but he chooses to use his talents to ensure patients in the developing world have access to healthcare.  For the last 40+ years, he has built the infrastructure of mission hospitals worldwide, if there is something to plug in (electrical, medical gas, X-ray, etc) he is the reason for it. He has been a great example of using talents for the good of the human race.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work? 

Brent: Knowing that people worldwide will have better access to prosthetic and orthotic care.

Jenny: What is the biggest obstacle in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions? 

Brent: Figuring out the material/printer/software dance and being able to effectively teach it.  I like where the technology is heading and I also like where machine learning is going.  In the end this will help drive down the cost of a prosthesis to make them more accessible.

Additive O&P

Jenny: What do you think is the biggest challenge in 3D Printing ? What do you think the potential solution is?

Brent: Many companies/people seem to be in a silo trying to hoard their knowledge for some sort of monetary gain. I believe in IP however there are times where working together for the greater good makes a lot a sense.

Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be? 

Brent:

  • raising my kids so they have a heart to love God and love people
  • access to a jet to be able to see patients and train clinicians in the developing world
  • a talented team of designers to help automate a work flow that makes sense for the developing world

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advices you heard should they ignore? 

Brent:

Good Advice:

Learn to design (use your educational discount)!  If you can make your products come to life you can also make other peoples products come to life. This makes you valuable and able to lead a team in the future.

Bad Advice:

Don’t seek higher education.

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