The Open Prosthetics Project has adopted the Alibre Design 3D parametric modeler as the CAD standard for industry-wide collaboration.

On the project’s website, medical product designers can post new ideas for prosthetic devices as CAD files, which are then available to the public free of charge. Prosthetic users or other designers can download the CAD data, customize or improve upon the prosthesis, and repost the modifications to the web site. Users are free to take 3D models to a fabricator and have the hardware built for less cost than buying a manufactured limb.

Founded by members of the Durham, NC industrial design firm Tackle Design, the nonprofit enterprise selected Alibre Design as the standard CAD system for all the shared design documents. Although the Tackle Design team traditionally modeled in SolidWorks, the designers moved to Alibre Design for the collaborative project, because Alibre offers a fully functional CAD modeler for free download. This allows amputees, prosthetists (doctors who custom-fit prostheses), and engineers of medical technology to view, modify, and further develop the 3D models without the barrier of cost.

Alibre’s free product, Alibre Design Xpress, is not just a CAD viewer. Users have full capability to design parametric parts and assemblies and create associative 2D drawings, which enable forum participants to make alterations or additions to a device. Alibre Design Xpress users also enjoy the option of adding on features for more advanced modeling or larger assemblies for an affordable price. The parametric solid modeling software is also remarkably easy to learn. New users having no prior CAD experience can usually model the parts they need after just a few online tutorial lessons.

Besides lower costs for artificial limbs, the members of the Open Prosthetic Project hope to rejuvenate creativity into a field that has not had any major innovations since the 1940s, despite wide strides in technology elsewhere in the medical world. The online forum [j1]allows designers to borrow ideas from each other, as well as take suggestions from the amputees that use the products on a daily basis, with an end goal of making more comfortable, capable, and affordable prosthetics.


[j1]Is this term in wide enough use so that people will know what it means? It's not in though I did find the definition on the internet elsewhere.