Student Designer Creates Beautiful 3D Printed Prosthetics

The burgeoning field of 3D printing offers endless possibilities for designers, artists and engineers alike. Although the full depth of its potential remains unplumbed, some cutting-edge designers have started experimenting with 3D printers in truly extraordinary ways.

In this spirit of innovation, student designer and architect Evan Kuester created two gorgeous 3D printed prosthetic arms for fellow student Ivania Castillo, who was born without her left hand.


kuester5“The world of 3D printing offers so many possibilities that once I knew such a device existed, it became one of my main interests,” Evan said. “Ever since I was a kid, I always thought prosthetics and robotic arms and legs were really cool, and once I was in the design field I found that designing buildings was very unrewarding. I realized I could use the same skills I learned [studying architecture] to really make a much deeper impact on people’s lives in the world of medicine.”

Evan, 23, created Ivania’s white prosthetic as part of the Embodied Evolution Competition at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), where he received his undergraduate degree in architecture in the spring of 2014. He specializes in computer-generated design, including computer modeling, parametric design, rendering and digital fabrication. Ivania, 21, studies interior design at SCAD.

Evan Kuester & Ivania Castillo

Evan Kuester & Ivania Castillo

“[Ivania and I] met through strange circumstances,” Evan said. “I had seen her around campus and knew she had a missing arm. In my last two quarters at SCAD, I was really bored and needed a challenge. I decided to track her down and ask if I could design her arm in my free time. I saw her randomly one day in the computer labs and decided that there was no better way to find out if she was willing to do this than to ask. So I did. She agreed and we have been friends ever since.”

Evan designed the 3D printed prosthetics as fashion accessories, to be worn like jewelry. Ivania said the prospect of wearing the prostheses was exciting.

“It was not something I had much experience with,” Ivania said, “but I knew of the progress being made with 3D printing in both fashion and prosthetics, so I was definitely very excited about what Evan would come up with.”

Creating 3D Printed Prosthetics

After measuring both Ivania’s arms, Evan created a proportional digital model of the white prosthetic limb. Using computer-aided design (CAD) program Rhinoceros 3D and the algorithmic modeling plugin Grasshopper, he created several iterations of the prosthetic arm to explore different design possibilities. After choosing the design, Evan cleaned up the model and made it “water tight” to prep it for the 3D printing process.

Over the next 36 hours, the 3D printer extruded small amounts of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic and a support material to create the arm. After a few hours in a chemical bath to remove the support material, the arm was complete and ready to wear. Evan put a light inside the white prosthetic arm to illuminate the intricate design work.

Hand 1The printing process took a total of 45 hours and cost Evan around $200 out of pocket.

After he graduated from SCAD, Evan used what he had learned when designing the white arm to create a second, black prosthetic arm with a more sleek and refined look.

“My second attempt at creating an arm for Ivania was inspired by my failures with the first,” Evan said. “I want to produce the best product I can, and there were a lot of things I wanted to change that bothered me with my first attempt, so I decided to change them and print another arm just to see if I could fix the issues.”

Ivania said the black arm fits better and is more comfortable to wear.

“The arms slip right on over my arm; no outside straps or securities are used,” Ivania said. “The ribbon on the arm is for decorative purposes.”

Although she finds it easier to perform everyday tasks without prostheses, Ivania wears Evan’s 3D printed prosthetics on special occasions. She said that describing the difference between other, more traditional prostheses and Evan’s creations is like comparing apples and oranges.

“It is almost impossible to compare,” Ivania said. “Evan’s prosthetics versus my others were made for different purposes. My [other prosthetic] arms are more functional than the one Evan made me, but Evan’s are more beautiful, artistic and elegant.”


3D Printed Design and the Future

Evan said he’d like to design more 3D printed prosthetics in the future, but he lacks access to large-format 3D printers, and the process of sending the designs to be printed elsewhere is too expensive for him to pursue for now.

He’s currently working on his master’s degree in architecture from California College of the Arts. As a result, much of his other design work is related to architectural and interior design, but he’s also moving into more industrial design.

"Fabric Architecture"

“Fabric Architecture”

Evan continues to earn recognition for his design work. In 2013, he received the Student Merit Award for the American Society of Architectural Illustrators’ 29th annual Architecture in Perspective exhibition, one of the highest honors in the field of architectural illustration, for his work, “Fabric Architecture.” More recently, he won Pinshape’s 3D Printed Wall Art Contest with his project “Patterns with Light.”

“I would consider myself a designer in its pure form,” Evan said. “I would love to design everything if I could, from fashion to buildings and everything in between. I draw inspiration from everything I see and try and create designs that are inspiring in both their message and the skill to produce an object.”

See more of Evan’s work on his website.

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3 thoughts on “Student Designer Creates Beautiful 3D Printed Prosthetics

  1. gharding

    These are amazing!! I could see these being used in the Film and Television design; you might figure out how to get these in front of them. You have a phenomenal career ahead of you! Best to you!

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