What Materials Are Used to Create Medical Prosthetics?

Anita Ginsburg
2 min readJan 25, 2022

Whether they’re creating a prosthetic leg, arm, eye, or hand, a prosthetist is a highly skilled person who uses their educational training and their role in rehabilitation to provide people with a prosthetic that allows people to move as freely as they once did before they lost the limb. In prosthetic eyes, the prosthetic supports proper eyelid function, and most people prefer it to wearing an eyepatch. The increased awareness of prosthetics has sparked a curiosity for what materials the prosthetics use.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is an excellent material to use as a medical prosthetic for a limb. It has a high tensile strength, a low thermal expansion, and a tolerance to high temperatures, and it is lightweight. For prosthetics, carbon fiber must be reinforced with something else as it’s susceptible to impact damage and another downside is that it’s a more costly material.

Expanding Foam

An expanding foam filler bonds the internal components while the grip surface melds with the structural shell’s shape. For example, a prosthetic finger often consists of a urethane foam grip surface, a lightweight expanding foam filler, and a carbon-fiber structural shell. The foam makes the whole finger lighter, which puts less stress on the hand’s structure.

Metal

There are a few metals used in the construction of prosthetics. These include steel, magnesium, aluminum, copper, and titanium. The metals have various applications, whether as alloys for plating or load-bearing structures.

Titanium

Titanium is a favorite metal in prosthetics as it’s as strong as some steel while staying lightweight. It’s also low density and has excellent corrosion resistance. Titanium is biocompatible, completely non-toxic, and hypoallergenic for people. This is why it’s commonly used in the medical fields to strengthen broken bones.

Another great reason to use titanium is that it’s non-magnetic, which means that those with prosthetic hands, limbs, or fingers won’t have to worry about metal objects sticking to them.

Plastic Acrylic

For prosthetic eyes, plastic acrylic is used to create the ocular prosthesis. An ocularist shapes the eye like a shell and places it over a rounded ocular implant that’s permanently embedded in the eye socket.

While there’s an adjustment period when you need a prosthesis for the first time, medical science has come a long way in terms of the material used, the functionality of the pieces, and appearance of the prostheses. A myoelectric prosthesis helps control its functions, and techniques are being developed that can lead a prosthetic to be as responsive as natural limbs.

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Anita Ginsburg
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Anita is a freelance writer who writes about health, business, and family among other things. A mother of two, she loves traveling with her family.