One day their prints may come

Columba College pupils (from left) Ryely Burtenshaw-Day, Gabrielle Magnuson and Aicha Wijland recently won the 2014 Information Science Technology Challenge with a business plan which uses 3D printers to print prosthetic limbs. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Columba College pupils (from left) Ryely Burtenshaw-Day, Gabrielle Magnuson and Aicha Wijland recently won the 2014 Information Science Technology Challenge with a business plan which uses 3D printers to print prosthetic limbs. Photo by Linda Robertson.

If three Columba College pupils could see their business plan come to fruition, every hospital in New Zealand would have a 3-D printer creating low-cost prosthetic limbs for amputees.

Gabrielle Magnuson, Aicha Wijland and Ryely Burtenshaw-Day (all 17) won the 2014 Information Science Technology Challenge this week with their initiative, after seeing some of the latest technology available to scientists.

Year 12 and 13 pupils from across Otago were introduced to the new gadgets by University of Otago Information Science staff before teams of pupils were challenged to develop an innovative business idea using one or more of the technologies.

The day culminated in the school teams presenting their ideas to a panel of judges from industry and academic circles.

The Columba College trio focused on the 3-D printer, which could turn recycled and biodegradable plastic into three-dimensional objects.

Their business plan - titled Need a Hand? - proposed using the printer to build prosthetic limbs such as hands, out of plastic at first, but eventually, as technology allowed, out of flesh and bone.

Instead of costing tens of thousands of dollars, prosthetic limbs could be made for as little as $10, they said.

They were delighted with the competition success, and there was tentative ambition among them to continue working on the business proposal.

''It would be really cool to follow the plan through to fruition, but I don't know if it's very realistic,'' Ryely said.

''Dental surgeons overseas are already using 3-D printing technology to make replacement teeth,'' she said.

Who knows what the future holds?

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