SPACES & PLACES
An interview with Danae Prosthetics' CEO Winston Frazer
Interview by Danielle McCloskey, contributor
Danielle McCloskey: How far long in development is Danae?
Winston Frazer: Officially, Danae, Inc. as a company has been in development for approximately 25 months. It was originally apart of my thesis while I was finishing undergrad at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). I was later encouraged to bring this idea to the world because the amputation community needed a fresh perspective in an industry that lacked diversity, variety, and flair. I then entered the MICA’s Up/Start competition to get funding to develop our early cover prototypes. We ended up winning one of the top prizes of $20,000 and the People’s Choice Award, which was $5,000.
DM: When can users expect to be able to use your services?
WF: We are currently wrapping up the development phase, which includes beta testing our locking mechanisms on different manufacturer’s pilons. We are scheduled to finish by the end of April. However, we are able to service individuals right now ad hoc.
DM: What kind of options will you allow users to have?
WF: Our users will have the ability to make 100% customization choices to their prosthetic covers. With a click of a few buttons and sliders, our application will allow our users to change designs, patterns, colors, and the type of finish they would like - all from the comfort of their mobile device our desktop. We will also have a unique selection of pre-designed covers, designed in-house or from collaborative efforts with our artist community. The design interface will allow both the user and our team to see a computer generated render of what they leg should look like in real time.
DM: Who is the team at Danae, and how did you meet?
WF: Our core team comprises of myself; Andrew Copeland, Director of Marketing and founding partner; Austin Peppel, Manufacturing Director and partner; and Brian Patterson, Applied Biomedical Engineer.
MICA’s campus has a way of pulling interesting people together, even if you’re not pursuing the same degree path. Andrew and I met in my first year, but we really connected while we summer interned in Atlanta working for celebrity photographer Derek Blanks - who is also a MICA alum - while on the set of The Real House Wives of Atlanta. Our experience of being resourceful was put to the test as we drove around Atlanta searching for food that could feed both of us under budget. Since then, we’ve always assisted each other on numerous projects, which includes working on MICA’s Benefit Fashion Show or just being there for moral support.
Austin and I connected through MICA’s Dfab lab while he was running his own 3D printing business back then. We gelled as co-founders because we agreed on the same kind of technological future that we wanted to see in the world.
DM: What have the reaction’s to Danae’s concept been like?
WF: On our journey to create 3D aesthetics for amputees has been well received because amputees, like everyone else, need to feel connected and seen for who they are without feeling stigmatized due to their amputation.
DM: What have you personally found that 3D printing does of the medical community and how are you utilizing it?
WF: 3D printing technology has paved the way for quick ideation and fast failure, in order to decrease unforeseen errors in products and medical processes and increase the probability of successful recovery and improvement of health. This is extremely promising for the medical industry and physicians because one can easily prototype new devices and manufacture the final product faster and cheaper than traditional methods.
For us, this means that there is a there is a lot of space for us to grow and innovate in the additive manufacturing world, including the medical industry. In many ways we are a design-house for humanity, using 3D printing as a way to find innovative solutions to societal problems.
DM: How did you get involved with prosthetic development in the first place?
WF: The seed of the idea came while I was in my junior year in college. I had a transformative experience while watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain's television show, No Reservations. During this particular episode, he visited a small family from Laos, whose father was having a difficult time providing financially, because his leg had been blown off by a land mine that was leftover from the Vietnam War. This affected me deeply. I sat still for 30 minutes, sad and lost in deep thought because I couldn't imagine my life if that had happened to me.
A year later I took a trip that would forever change my life. On by study abroad program, I traveled to a small African island nation off the coast of Nigeria called São Tomé and Príncipe. While I was there, I noticed a large number of the population was either suffering from or impacted by amputation. Instantly feeling that similar sense of sadness to the year prior, I was shocked in disbelief because what I saw was the complete opposite. The Islanders were happy, expressive, and full of life. They embraced their circumstance and focused more on what life had to offer, instead of looking at what they had lost. This dramatically changed my outlook on life and filled me with hope and inspiration.
This hope and inspiration drove me to start Danae and use design and 3D technology to create original, customizable, and affordable prosthetic devices that will help amputees embrace their new normal.
DM: How has your background in Fine Arts helped you personally at Danae?
WF: Two words: imagination and process. Nothing is impossible if we can envision the steps that are needed to make an idea into a reality, then having the grit to follow through at a higher level. These are primary skills that I learned while doing Fine Arts at MICA, which I - as well as my team - have relied on in many instances to create and improve our product with limited access and resources.
As we embark on yet another eventful year we are continuously challenged, yet find innovative ways, to rise to the occasion.