Plastic Prosthetics for the Developing World

Smiling African man on crutches

Plastic innovations in health, medical, and safety tools help save countless lives, prevent diseases, and avoid injuries across the globe. Whether for children in sub-Sahara Africa or for suburban American families, these advances help improve basic hygiene, contribute to safety, and enable lifesaving measures.

The Need for Plastic Prosthetics

More than 9 million people living in the developing world have lost a leg above the knee and do not have access to prosthetics. And due to accidents, violence, disease, and natural disasters in these regions, hundreds of thousands more become amputees each year.

In 2008, one non-profit started doing something about it.

D-Rev designs and delivers products to people living in the developing world on less than $4 per day. The nonprofit worked with students at Stanford University who developed a knee joint using high-strength plastics and stainless steel.

The joint “works with standard prosthetic leg systems,” “withstands humid and wet climates, without rusting or swelling,” and weighs less than a pound. The joint is durable, uses an oil-filled, self-lubricating nylon polymer, and provides a 165-degree range of motion that enables kneeling, squatting and biking.

Developing Plastic Prosthetics

The first version of their plastics prosthetic was developed for production and fitting by the largest provider of prosthetics in the world. Version two was manufactured in Menlo Park, Calif., and distributed through a prosthetics foundation in Ecuador. The “v3 ReMotion Knee” is in field trials and is expected to be mass-produced for worldwide scale with a projected retail price of only $80.

To deliver the knee joint, D-Rev partners with prosthetics providers worldwide and clinics around the world that are staffed with experts in prosthetics. D-Rev says the knee joint “gives patients a stable gait at a fraction of the cost and is designed with plastics” instead of more expensive materials found in traditional devices.

D-Rev reports that more than 6,000 amputees in 14 countries have been fitted with the ReMotion Knee.

See images of people fitted with the plastic prosthetic joint.

Read stories about the amputees and their new opportunities.

Watch a video of a teenager who received the plastic prosthetic joint.

Watch a video on the development of the knee joint.