Woman wearing dark colors showcases her prosthetic right leg, which has a white pattern and is shiny. It contains customized fairings from Bespoke Innovations. Photo courtesy of Bespoke Innovations.

Alumnus Adds Personal Touch to Prosthetic Limbs

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant

Black-and-white portrait of SJSU alumnus Scott Summit, co-founder of Bespoke Innovations

SJSU alumnus Scott Summit uses 3-D technology to personalize prosthetic limbs. Photo courtesy of Bespoke Innovations.

Design, medicine and technology merge at the San Francisco workplace of SJSU alumnus Scott Summit, ’94, Industrial Design. His company Bespoke Innovations uses 3-D technology to create customized fairings, which are covers that attach to prosthetic limbs to re-create human form.

According to Bespoke Innovations’ website, a camera scans a person’s existing leg and captures imagery that is flipped on a computer. For a double-amputee, someone with appropriate build would be a stand-in for the scanning. The person selects from a variety of customization options, including materials, styles and appearance — even tattoos. Finally, a 3-D printer prints out the actual fairing.

For its fairings, Bespoke Innovations ended 2011 on a high note with a Good Design Award, a global award for new designs and products. Months prior, Summit and fellow designer Chris Campbell also earned a GOLD Idea award from the Industrial Designers Society.

His Design Ecosystem

With more than 20 years of overall experience in the industry and multiple awards, Summit credits his alma mater for some of his success.

“SJSU was a great ecosystem for me to explore design,” he said. “Though it lacked the funding and facilities of other design departments, the students and faculty were passionate and driven.”

His most influential professor in the Industrial Design Program was Tomasz Migurski.

“I suspect I was a headache to him, since I was certain at the time that I was the best designer that would ever be,” Summit said. “His assignments left me humbled, which I’ve since come to accept is the most important stage for any aspiring designer. I ended up working far harder to learn to think like a designer than I had at anything prior.”

Helping Others Through Creativity

In 2009, Summit co-founded Bespoke Innovations with orthopedic surgeon Kenneth Trauner. An interview with the New York Times about 3-D printing led to the company’s big break.

“I suspected the story would amount to nothing more than a passing mention deep in the paper, so I was willing to offer up the concept before we had a business plan to back it up,” Summit said. “The story ended up on the front page, above the fold, with a picture, and was the most forwarded story for weeks after. Needless to say, we were inundated with interest, and quickly scrambled to add people to fill the voids in what became a business.”

Personalized prostheses are just a small portion of what Summit and Bespoke Innovations would like to do to enhance people’s quality of life. Summit sees the global potential of using 3-D technology, which already creates fairings in a quicker amount of time and at a fraction of the cost it would have taken to make them by hand.

“Soon anyone, anywhere, may have access to the same kind of care that one might have in Silicon Valley or New York,” he said. “I tell myself that we’ll be able to offer a process where a person in Botswana may be treated with the same quality of care as someone in the U.S., with no more tools than Internet access, a camera and an iPad.”

Summit advised students to pursue their passions and skills because “there is nothing more rewarding than doing what you love, while helping people who need your creativity.”

“There are endless human challenges and needs, and creativity is the greatest nutrient to find the solutions,” he said. “The new tools change daily, so a student should be prepared to be dynamic, to react to the changing world and to invent their way through the world.”