Kansas startup makes hemp legs and arms to help people who have lost their own bodies
It's hard to break into an industry with a new product, but a young Newton-based company is trying to change people's paradigm. Using hemp instead of man-made products like plastic and fiberglass, the owners of Human Plant Solutions hope to change the fabric of dentures.
Using natural fibers, Human Plant Solutionits created a patent-pending alternative to conventional, expensive and ultra-light composites for the fabrication of prostheses and devices. In 2017, she developed the first prototype hemp fiber for a definitive device for a high activity amputee, below the knee. The patient has worn the original prototype ever since, competing in competitive events including an Ironman 70,3 race and most recently this year's Boston Virtual Marathon.
The inventor of this hemp-based product, Kyle Trivisonno, believes that hemp is not only as strong as the synthetics used to shape legs and arms, but that it is less itchy on the skin.
“Hemp is cheaper and less caustic,” Trivisonno said. "It is a more durable material".
Trivisonno, who is a certified prosthetic technician, has built over 1 prostheses - with materials like acrylic resin, carbon fiber, thermoplastics and fiberglass. A few years ago, he decided to try building a hemp leg - and it worked.
His friend, Marc Dunshe, who lost his leg below the knee in an off-road motorcycle accident, has been using Trivisonno's hemp prosthesis for years. Dunshe ran one triathlon and two marathons with it.
An idea was born
In 2017, Trivisonno came up with the idea of using hemp instead of fiberglass or acrylic resin for prostheses. According to him, conventional materials are often caustic to work for manufacturers and device builders, and if the prosthesis is not finished with a rubberized material on top, it can be itchy for the user.
After doing some testing, Mr. Trivisonno decided to go ahead with his product and hire a lawyer to help him get a patent. At the time, he was in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Trivisonno has formed a partnership with Sam Spallitta, the CEO of the company. Mr. Spallitta, who grew up in Kansas City, believes Sunflower State will be a good place for this young manufacturing company. The Kansas Department of Commerce considered the company to have potential and, according to Mr. Trivisonno, so did Koch Industries, which awarded him a scholarship in the GoCreate business incubator on the university campus. of Wichita State.
When the start-up went beyond the confines of the incubator, it sought help. Newton saw their potential and reached out to them by offering them a free 180-day location at the Newton City and County Airport. Human Plant Solutions is responsible for utilities.
“We are grateful to Newton for being innovative and supporting us,” said Mr. Trivisonno. “They encouraged us to grow here and stay here. "
Making affordable and durable hemp prosthetics
According to them, hemp is more flexible than other products - and just as strong.
“We believe that with sustainable materials and training, the possibilities for innovation are endless,” said Mr. Spallitta.
Currently, Human Plant Solutions purchases its industrial hemp long fibers outside of the United States, but is hopeful that as farmers produce hemp fibers in the United States, it will be able to purchase its processed fibers from a national company.
“Our goal is to improve lives,” said Spallitta. "We also want to help farmers in any way we can."
According to Mr. Trivisonno, by using natural fibers, manufacturers are less dependent on carbon and petroleum-based products. Prostheses made from hemp are also lighter and less corrosive.
Unprocessed long fiber hemp.
Human Plant Solutions and the University of Kansas look to the future
Human Plant Solutions has partnered with engineering students at the University of Kansas to help design a pediatric racing blade for young amputees. By making this unit from hemp, students at the University of Kansas and Human Plant Solutions hope to provide a product that is less expensive than conventional products.
Trivisonno is ready to work with any doctor and make products from whatever materials they want. But he hopes that by educating them about the benefits of hemp, they will understand the value of fiber.
“We want to help people,” Mr. Trivisonno said. "We are open to any partnership or community relationship".