South Vancouver business Barber Prosthetics exploring the limits of 3D printing

When first walking into Barber Prosthetics Clinic, it might seem daunting entering directly into the workshop, but that impression is very short lived. As soon as you encounter David Moe he brings a sense of fun and relaxation to the room.

David Moe (left) and Loren Schubert (right) sharing a joke while working on Mar. 9. Photo by LAURA BROUGHAM

Moe is the owner of Barber Prosthetics, a South Vancouver company that does research in the field of prosthetics, as well as making them, and is starting to explore 3D printing.

Moe has been around prosthetics his whole life. His father used to work in the Children’s Hospital in Calgary before buying his own practice in Edmonton. The practice became a family business, and through his time at that practice, he worked with his father, two of his uncles, his grandmother, his sister and his brother.

“I started at 14 and I’m still here,” Moe said. When his father bought a practice in 1979, “I started going there and sweeping the floor at the end of the day. I’d grab the bus and I’d go down to work, my dad would stay a half hour late so I that I could get two hours worth of work in.”

Here is Moe describing how he first got an interest in prosthetics:

No two patients the same

David Moe holding casts on Mar. 9. Photo by LAURA BROUGHAM

Every patient is approached differently, because some techniques used for one patient can’t be used in the same way for another, according to Moe.

“Each person is like a puzzle,” Moe said. “Our role is to know that there is a puzzle, and then help the people to figure out which piece is the next piece that’s actually going to go in to that puzzle.”

Hoping to improve the profession

David Moe (left) looking at the work Alyson Clow (right) has done on a prosthetic on Mar. 9. Photo by LAURA BROUGHAM

Moe hopes that by the end of his working career, he leaves the profession better than he entered it, whether through his work at Barber Prosthetics, or his time as a prosthetics instructor at BCIT.

“I’m always striving to see if we can be better, to see if we can raise the bar, to see if we can develop the highest standard of patient care that’s available,” Moe said. “My goal is to hopefully leave my profession better than I entered it.”

3D printers in the prosthetic industry

David Moe working at the 3D printer at Barber Prosthetics on Mar. 9. Photo by LAURA BROUGHAM

Barber Prosthetics got a 3D printer in November of last year, but Moe is hoping to answer some questions about the strength of the sockets, or the piece that joins the prosthetic to the residual limb, before giving any clients anything 3D printed. Moe is doing research with the National Autonomous University of Mexico and BCIT on this topic.

“We just created 48 sockets, we’ve just broken them all, and now we have the data to compare 3D printed against how we create them now and we’ll be able to write a paper,” Moe said. “Once we know it’ll be strong enough, I think I’ll have a far more likelihood of allowing people to walk them, and we’ll usher in the 3D printing in a safe, controlled manner.”

Workshop Decor

Untitled collage
Decorations, including a bent ruler on the left photo, around Barber Prosthetics’ workshop on Mar. 9. Photo by LAURA BROUGHAM

Decorations are hung up around the workshop, to give patients something to look at. One of those decorations is a ruler twisted due to its uselessness, according to Daryl Murphy, prosthetic technician at Barber Prosthetics.

Daryl Murphy working on a prosthetic on Mar. 9. Photo by LAURA BROUGHAM

“It was a ruler and it had a whole bunch of felt marks on it,” Murphy said. “Then [somebody used] some acetone to rub that mark off, and it took a whole swath of the actual increments off, and it was like ‘well this just became useless.’ So we just bent it into a little shape.”


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