MUMBAI: The nearly 40-year-old Jaipur foot, which has helped millions of disabled people walk, is getting a digital makeover. Thanks to a Google grant and IIT-Bombay‘s expertise, three-dimensional (3D) printers will assemble its prosthetic socket, one layer at a time.

In fact, 200 amputees who have been using the Jaipur foot for years will switch over to the 3D-printed prosthetic this month. “We are conducting a four-month pilot study to test the new prosthesis,” said Rajeev Mehta, a trustee of Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust that, as a winner of the Google Impact Challenges 2015, got a $350,000 grant for this experiment.

Dr B Ravi of IIT’s Biomedical Engineering and Technology Centre confirmed that the Jaipur foot makeover was ready for trials. The 3D-printed prosthetic is made using high density plastic within a couple of hours, instead of the eight-hour manual process.

On the occasion of the International Day of the Disabled on December 3, the 3D-printed limb was unveiled by social reformer Anna Hazare at a function in Mumbai.

While 3D printing is slowly making its way into the medical world, it has mainly been used as a diagnostic aid: doctors in Indian metros use CT/MRI scans to make 3D-printed models of a patient’s heart, spine and teeth to help them understand complex anomalies before operating on them. But the Jaipur foot digitization may be the first time that a 3D-printed output is being used for therapy itself. Dr Ravi told TOI that his team had in a one-off experiment made a 3D-printed bone prosthetic for a cancer patient. But this is the first time 3D-printed prosthesis will be mass-produced and used.

Dr Bhavin Jhankaria, a radiologist who has been associated with many of the 3D-printed health endeavours in Mumbai, said dentists have for long been using 3D-printed dental crowns. “But if 3D printers are making Jaipur foot, it will be the first time in India 3D models are used to treat a patient,” he said.

The BMC has already given space in its King George V Memorial complex in Mahalaxmi to the Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust to mass produce the 3D-printed Jaipur foot. “Our limbs are sent to patients across the country and the world. Thanks to the Google grant, we can remotely take orders from people and deliver it to them,” Mehta said.