Starting as a senior design project within the engineering walls of NDSU, Protosthetics has come a long way from its humble beginnings of four students with an interest in 3D printing, trying to build an affordable set of arms for a four-year-old boy in Washington.
Upon graduation, three of the students moved on to pursue other interests, but Cooper Bierscheid, turned down his dream job offer at 3M and remained with the project. Around this time, he met serial entrepreneur and medical device consultant, Josh Teigen, and the two decided to go into business together and take the concept from project to promising startup.
Since those days, the team at Protosthetics has finalized their prototype design of their artificial arm, the PAL, or Printed Artificial Limb. Much more goes into this product than meets the eye, as the arm is controlled by electronic impulses sent from the brain, which is then processed and translated into motion, all in real time. This allows the patient to simply “think” about moving the arm, and it responds according. The team is continuing it’s development on this product in making more grip patterns, as well as incorporating different accessories and attachments, and virtual reality for training purposes.
Upon forming the company, the team realized that a majority of the market is made up of lower extremity patients. Determined to deliver a product to this broader market, the team uncovered an area of opportunity. Amputees are unable to wear their primary leg into the shower, pool, beach or anywhere it can get wet or dirty. Additionally, insurance companies do not deem a second leg to be medically necessary. Due to the cost-intensive nature of prosthetics and their components, this leaves amputees with no choice other than to crawl or use crutches to get to the bathroom and sit on the floor or use a chair in the shower. The Protosthetics team saw an opportunity to capitalize on this issue and began development of an affordable, waterproof, and durable leg meant for use in wet and dirty environments. This later became the Amphibian Leg, and the first product went to a professional snowmobiler, looking for a solution to pursue his passion.
Protosthetics is now pioneering the field of not only prosthetic and orthotic technology but also the 3D printing industry as a whole. Unsatisfied with the capabilities of the machines that could be purchased in the market, the team came together and designed and built their own machines in order to better suit their manufacturing needs. This development has also opened up doors for their contract manufacturing arm of their business, in the orthopedics industry.
Being in the Midwest, and greater Fargo area as a whole has been crucial to the company’s success. The attitude for new innovations in the area is unparalleled anywhere in the world. People are hungry to get involved with and support new and exciting companies in any way possible. Additionally, the tools available to small businesses in the area are second to none. The past and current innovations in Fargo have left the area with a robustly talented workforce and many people who have experien ced a great deal of financial success and are willing to invest time and other resources into new and upcoming businesses which they find promising. The success of the state as a whole has brought about additional resources as well including InnovateND and several others through the Bank of North Dakota.
Overall, being in Fargo is one of the biggest competitive advantages that a new and developing company can utilize today. The talent, work ethic and level of support from people in the area is one of the unique combinations anywhere in the world.
From the team at Protosthetics, we appreciate everything that our community provides us, and we look forward to adding value and positioning North Dakota as a global leader in prosthetic and orthotic technology.