Art Follows Function–One Company’s Vision To Break The Mold Of Prosthetics
Bespoke provides amputees an aesthetic alternative to titanium rods and plastic-looking, off-colored shells that typically adorn their legs. Rather than grotesque incongruities, Bespoke’s below-knee prostheses are works of art.
‘Bespoke,’ by definition, means customized to suit the individual.
The first line on the Bespoke Prosthetics website encompasses not only the company’s MO but the company co-founder Scott Summitt’s personal philosophy. An industrial designer, Summit had previously worked at megacompanies such as Apple, Palm, and Nike. From his experience at these companies was born his distaste for mass production and his vision for individualized technology.
The first video below is Core77's interview with Summit where he discusses both the technology and the philosophy that drive Bespoke. With single amputees the manufacturing process begins by scanning the “sound site” leg, then mirroring it so that the dimensions of the prosthesis will match and symmetry can once again be given back to the amputee. For double amputees a surrogate model with the correct proportions is used. After the shape is determined, the amputee gets to design his or her new leg, choosing from materials such as wood veneer, carbon fiber, metal, nylon, simulated suedes and leathers or, as Summit mentions in the video below, “anything that you would put into a car’s interior or fashion is fair game.”
A library of intricate designs can be incorporated to jazz up the prosthesis (check out samples of the beautiful artwork on Bespoke’s website). A 3D computer rendering of the final design is created so that the amputee can mull over their choice for a while before they give the final go ahead (Definitely a smart thing to do. I can only guess a lot of people wish they’d spent more time with their tattoo design.). The prosthesis is then built through additive fabrication, the building up of material layer by layer. The whole process from scan to final product takes a few weeks, depending on the intricacy of the design (The second video is a cool CGI of the assembly process). How much for these one-of-a-kind creations? The price tag starts at $4,000, which is comparable to the price of a typical lower leg prosthesis even if the final creation is most decidedly not.
On their website, Bespoke makes a poignant argument: “When we think of a car, a house, a pair of sunglasses, we expect more than the raw, base functionality than the object provides. We let it express soul, personality, and character. It expresses who we are, our taste and our individuality. But this traditionally does not translate to the world of prosthetics. Yet of all things personal, individual, and unique, this should be that one area that most showcases the wearer for who they are.”
This is one of those times when I say to myself, Now why didn’t I think of that? Or, better yet, why haven’t prosthesis providers thought of it? It seems to be one of those cases where you just take what’s handed to you because you trust that your care-givers are doing the best they can.
Thanks to Scott Summit’s imagination, that mold’s been broken.