Catwalk, Rivet and Vittra from Stigma to Style: 3D Printed Prosthetic Covers, 2016, UNYQ
The Exhibition visited in week 5 examined the place and impact of new digital manufacturing technologies. 3-D printing is a technology that has become more and more renowned as a new method to create art and art installations. Many of the works at Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital use this practice to design and build their works. UNYQ harnesses state-of-the-art 3-D printing and photogrammetry software in their exhibit Catwalk, Rivet and Vittra from Stigma to Style to create beautiful custom prosthetic limb covers that offer amputees unprecedented levels of protection and comfort. A selection of the covers were shown at the exhibition and they immediately stood out to myself as an interesting concept to explore.
UNYQ’s founders, Eythor Bender and Manuel Boza met in 2003 while both working for Össur, a world market leader in prosthetics. Bender was the president Ossur America, while Boza was an engineer who specialised in above-knee amputation and was managing Ossur’s sales in Southern Europe when he became captivated with 3D printing. Boza became increasingly frustrated with the design options of prosthetics offered to himself and his fellow amputees, so he started researching the idea of prosthetic covers, and this was around the same time that 3D printing was becoming more known. The passion possessed by Bender to help people with disabilities or loss of limbs to regain mobility and healthy lifestyle led him to the position of Executive Director of the first companies in the world specialising in bionic suits: Ekso Bionics and Rex Bionics (UNYQ, 2017). These two worked alongside several engineers and designers to start creating the UNYQ Armour, that had a few of its styles on show at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.
UNYQ Armour is 3D printing technology, being used to create beautiful protective prosthetic covers that help restore symmetry to amputees’ silhouettes, and inspire confidence. By creating personalised and attractive covers, UNYQ is able to help shift the perception of a prosthesis as a reflection of tragedy to an expression of personality (Marshall, 2015). The prosthetic leg and arm covers can come in many different types of styles and colours. The idea is to have the person who will be wearing them, to design the cover that reflects them as a person. Every cover is designed to perfectly fit the wear and created using 3-D printing technology. The covers are made with a highly resistant polymer that ensures consistency and durability. The customisations they can make can also change the materials used such as leather, ballistic nylon fabric, chrome plating and tattoos. The covers, more commonly known as fairings are also extremely light, ranging from 400-640 grams depending on the requirements and the measurements of the persons prosthetic (UNYQ, 2017). The reason they would use such a light material is to increase comfort and range of motion, but these are also two main ideas that they wanted to build around as a company. They wanted to create unique, trendy looking fairings that not only turned heads, but actually improved your movement, comfort and well being at the same time. UNYQ covers are like tattoos. Tattoos are something that a person would get to express themselves and express their personality. The idea behind custom designed fairings was exactly the same thing, they wanted fairings to be a powerful way for someone who has maybe had problems expressing themselves due to there disability to be able to show off a part of them that they shouldn’t be ashamed of. The fairings give them a chance to tell their story. Katherine Crawford, an amateur actress, who’s career is built on their image said that “losing a limb can have a devastating impact on your sense of self esteem.
UNYQ gives us the freedom to create our own fashion statements and express who we are with confidence.” UNYQ have recently added UNYQ Align, a scoliosis brace with the same intentions as their covers, but also have incredible health advantages too. UNYQ seem to have healthcare at the top of their list of priorities and that shows by using 3-D printing as their method of production as it has been proven to be at the forefront of the health industry with its advances in organ, bone and cartilage development.
Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital features works that framed by seven themes. The work by UNYQ proudly uses all of these to show how they are materialising the digital. The first theme is Analog to Postdigital. Catwalk, Rivet and Vittra from Stigma to Style displays this as prosthetics and fairings were not always built with 3-D printers, they were built by machines and engineers with much higher labour and costs. The second theme is modelling nature, and this one is pretty self explanatory as the developers and designers are creating limbs and body parts, i.e modelling the natural human form. New geometries is the third theme and this is referring to the advancement in the computers understanding and visualisation of the mathematical form. UNYQ is using new and innovative technology to create their fairings and is constantly searching for better ways to do so. The fourth theme is Rebooting revivals. This speaks about the reference to historical artworks and past designs. Although every cover they make is UNYQ, they are still drawing their inspiration off past prosthetic designs, and past fairing designs. They are also rebooting the use of art and self expression to combat an issue. Pattern as Structure is the fifth theme and it relates to the human urge of creating patterns and to identify patterns, whether it be in art, design craft and even scientific investigation. UNYQ uses patterns to help design their fairings both mechanically and aesthetically. Digital advances have inspired a re-examination of the body and the representation of the human form in art and design, which leads into the sixth theme which is remixing the figure. UNYQ’s products are doing exactly that, they are taking the human form and remixing what would conventionally be a source of anger and shame and turning it into something of pride and dignity. Finally the last theme is process, and this I feel is the most important one due to the perfectionistic approach to creating their products. UNYQ design every single fairing unique to their buyer, making every product different, but every process the same. They take several images of the prosthetic and using the information gathered create a uniquely designed fairing for the buyer.
UNYQ are producing quality products designed to help people both physically and mentally, along with being flooded with artistic praise due to there sleek design and attractive attributes. When it comes to innovating through digitalised medicine, UNYQ is not alone. There is a wave of initiatives to harness 3D printing and new materials to create prosthetics for fingers, arms and legs. What’s exciting to see is that the aesthetics are becoming just as important to designers and amputees as the function. We are no longer leaving people with an incomplete sense of self (Marshall, 2015). UNYQ are constantly advancing their abilities to materialise the digital for not only the purpose of stretching the creative bound of 3D printing, but to help people grow confidence and self worth through expressing themselves with their own piece of art.
Halterman TE, 2015, UNYQ and 3D Systems Join Forces to Develop 3D Printed Orthotics & Prostheses, 3Dprint.com, date viewed 28th of April 2017, <https://3dprint.com/55551/unyq-3d-systems-join-forces/
Marshall J, 2015, The History of Prosthetics, UNYQ.com, viewed 29th April 2017,<http://unyq.com/the-history-of-prosthetics/>
Pangburn, DJ 2015, 3D-Printed Covers Bring a Stylish Touch to Prosthetic Limbs, Good viewed: April 19th 2017, https://www.good.is/articles/unyq-3d-printed-prosthetic-covers
Whittaker M, 2014, The history of 3D printing in healthcare, The Bulletin Archive, date viewed 29th April 2017,<http://publishing.rcseng.ac.uk/doi/full/10.1308/147363514X13990346756481?