Imagine suffering a terrible injury that results in the loss of a leg. Now imagine having to deal with that tragedy compounded with the inability to wear your prosthetic limb in water. To shower or enjoy a day at the beach, you have to sit, crawl, or use crutches. On top of it all, insurance won’t cover a waterproof limb because showering or swimming are not considered “activities of daily living.”If you found yourself in this position, where would you turn? How would you deal with the inevitable feelings of helplessness and hopelessness? The founders of Protosthetics want to provide the answers to those questions that have been missing for so long. Thanks to their 3D printed waterproof prosthetic leg called the Amphibian, they want you to “stand up in the shower and do what you love without ever worrying again about the consequences of wearing your prosthetic leg in wet or dirty environments.” Even better, they want their limbs to be affordable — the Amphibian costs less than $1,000.
Protosthetics began when Cooper Bierscheid and Josh Teigen combined their mutual passions for design and helping people. Cooper’s interest in prosthetic limbs began in college when he learned that one of his professors had a young grandnephew in need of prosthetic arms. The price tag was over $100,000. Cooper used his senior design project to design affordable arms.
After graduation, Cooper gave up his dream job at 3M to pursue his passion for helping others. Josh, a serial entrepreneur and medical device consultant, soon joined the venture and Protosthetics was born. They started out in Barnesville, working in the basement of a former church and then under a dance studio before moving to Fargo in early 2017.
Although the company was initially focused on creating prosthetic arms, they soon learned that there was a much greater need for lower extremities. “There are on average 507 lower extremity amputations every day in the US,” Josh explained. “80% of these are due to vascular disease and diabetes.” It is within that space that Protosthetics hopes to make an impact.
Cooper and Josh have assembled a team that comes to work every day because they “strive to solve the biggest challenge in the orthotics and prosthetics industry.” According to Josh, there hasn’t been a lot of recent technological innovation in terms of prosthetics, which is where 3D printing comes in. The Amphibian mentioned above is printed with NinjaFlex material that is both flexible and waterproof. The first Amphibian went to a professional snowmobiler. “It is the next evolution in the industry,” Josh said.
Protosthetics’s engineers take traditional 3D printers and rebuild them in-house, creating the printers needed to make artificial limbs. The company hopes to eventually have a “print farm” of 30 to 35 printers, which would allow them to expand the reach of their existing product lines. It would also enable them to develop new products. For Josh, the focus is always forward. “We are always working to improve the process and cut costs,” he explained. “It’s all about maximizing the process.”
Protosthetics plans to become a major player in the prosthetics arena. “It’s a very interesting industry,” Josh said. “Two huge companies currently control most of the market. We see a lot of opportunity to disrupt that space.” Josh is also interested in building a company the community can be proud of. “There is a great opportunity to do a lot of good and build a world class company here in Fargo,” he said. “We want to be part of the next chapter of great companies in the area. It’s awesome being on the cutting edge and so rewarding building products that help people.”
More information on Protosthetics can be obtained at protosthetics.com.
By Jamee Larson