Adding Brand (2020)

Adding Brand (2020)

Matt McGowan

Design, Branding and Additive Manufacture in the production of tangible prosthetic products

Most companies are aware of the importance of the recognition and desirability of their product to make the all-important sales. The larger a company – and its expected turnover – the more they spend on developing a distinct brand identity and create a social acceptance that eventually creates desirability. While commercial companies for all sorts of products make this part of their product development, this aspect has up until now been neglected by the service industry that supplies medical equipment. The supply of medical aids has been seen as a sad and necessary chore, and the recipients – more often than not – are pitied for their need. The NZALS is wanting to change these old attitudes by adopting new technologies to improve the process itself and the outcomes for the amputees.

Societies are changing and attitudes towards medical aids are changing as well. They are still necessities, but the end-users don’t want to put up with boring or mediocre products, but rather use these as fashion or other kind of statements. Statements and branding go hand-in-hand, and here Matt McGowan’s Master’s thesis explores how to introduce design research and additive manufacturing in such a way to the service industry supplying artificial limbs, to create desirable and functional products to the customers. The NZALS is encouraging research through collaboration with research projects at VUW and providing valuable insight into details of the whole process.

Artificial limbs per se are a difficult product to produce: they have to be generic enough to fit some kind of production process but individual enough to be of true help to the user. This has meant most artificial limbs in New Zealand are made by hand, a laborious and expensive method. An industry supplying personalized covers for these limbs has sprung up, in response to the dire state of the design of these limbs, which is an expensive way to make a necessity palatable, not desirable.

In collaboration with the NZALS Matt has created two products – with an accompanying web site idea – to demonstrate the use and look of a branded product. Firstly, a below-the- knee Prosthetic Fairing (Easycover), and secondly, a fully 3D printed below-the- knee prosthetic (Easylimb). The research undertaken shows the importance of creating tangible and readymade products to allow the NZALS, it’s staff and amputee clientele, to understand the benefits of design, branding, and emerging platforms of manufacture in the production of prosthetic diversity.

Matt has shown that Additive Manufacturing combined with creative design research can produce artificial limbs that can be manufactured economically and through branding as an off-the-shelf product tailored to the fashion or other sensibilities of the users.

Materials and Processes – close-up


CAD modelling software – Rhino 3D , Keyshot and Netfabb.


FDM printer, SLS, MJF printing

Project level

Master of Design Innovation Research Portfolio submission (MDI), supervisors Bernard Guy and Simon Fraser

External Partners

The project was supported by NZALS and Callaghan Innovation 

Best Awards Student Product Gold 2021