Prosthetic Skins - CODAworx

Prosthetic Skins

Submitted by Dustin Headley

Client: Humans

Location: Manhattan, Kansas, United States

Completion date: 2016

Artwork budget: $200

Project Team


Dustin Headley

Art Consultant

Amanda Parson-Twesten


Digital Fabrication Club @ Kansas State University


The purpose of this project/research was to develop a cosmetic skin for a volunteer amputee with an existing prosthesis. Each skin was non-structural and made out of various 3D printed and CNC'd materials and acted to simulate the shape of their body, with the hope that these designs would improve personal comfort and personal sense of self in the participant. The Department of Interior Architecture and Product Design (IAPD) at K-State has provided support for costs of this work, each of which varied around roughly $120 for a final (plus about $80 to develop the prototypes).


This research engages a number of participants that suffer from amputation (approx. 4-6 in total) and engaged undergraduate design students in the conceptual design from the department of Interior Architecture and Product Design at K-State University. These participants volunteered their time to share their experiences to enhance the students’ abilities as a designers to engage in empathetic thinking and design development. The aim of this research is to develop cosmetic prosthetic skins that enable the participants to feel more comfortable in their perception of self and how they are perceived by the public while also taking into consideration the cost of these works (which is often cost prohibitive).
Each piece is an artwork that is reflection of the form of the body of the participant (digitally mirrored from 3D scanning) as well as the narrative of their journey. A butterfly wing wrapping the leg connects one participant with their kids; a Purple Heart connects the serviceman to his duty; the vine connects another with her personal growth. Each piece is void without the narrative that connects it with the individual for which it was designed.


Each of the participants was interviewed by a small group of students. The participants shared their stories, good and bad as well as how their amputation had occurred and how it had changed their perceptions of self. A prosthetist was then consulted to understand the parameters that needed to be considered in order to understand functional issues in the design of the skins. Each student then worked separately to develop a design that responded to the narrative that they were given. This culminated in a final presentation to the participants who then selected a final design to be developed for fabrication. The professor then engineered the designs within fabrication tolerances and developed prototypes for the participants.

Additional Information

These works were the first introduction to digital design methods for the students involved. These projects were developed by the students over three weeks for a Product Design Studio in IAPD and then developed for fabrication by the professor (Dustin Headley).