Known in the racing community as “Monster” Mike Schultz, the 36-year-old from St. Cloud, MN has transformed the world of adaptive action sports in multiple ways. In 2008, Schultz suffered a knee injury during a snowmobile competition that resulted in amputation of his left leg above the knee. Limited by a prosthesis that didn’t perform as needed for competitive, rigorous sports, Schultz set out to create his own durable and versatile mechanical prosthesis, using his knowledge and experience of fabrication and tuning suspensions on racing equipment.
Within seven months of the accident, Schultz was again competing on the national stage at the ESPN X Games, receiving a silver medal in adaptive motocross. After competing in his first adaptive sporting event, he soon recognized that many other amputees could benefit from the equipment he was working on. In 2010, he founded BioDapt Inc., a company that designs, manufactures, and distributes high performance lower limb prosthetic components used for action sports and activities with similar physical demands.
Schultz is already a nine-time X Games gold medalist in Motocross and Snocross, with other awards in Snowboarding and Snow Bike. In the 2019 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, he brought home to the U.S. a gold and a silver in snowboarding.
Manufacturing His Prosthesis
This year, Schultz is gearing up for the upcoming Winter X Games 2020 in Aspen with a cutting-edge prosthesis designed with digital manufacturer Protolabs to. The new knee and foot components were designed specifically for their performance value. Protolabs is a leader and trusted partner to thousands of companies ranging from startups to Fortune 50 companies, and across a vast array of industries. All manufacturing is done at Protolabs’ own facilities and jobs are never brokered out, which is key for product developers like Schultz, to whom consistent quality and repeatability are critical.
Schultz turned to Protolabs to produce his enhanced prosthesis from lightweight 6061 aluminum using Protolabs’ CNC machining service. Aluminum was chosen due to its lightweight yet durable nature for competition.
The parts, dubbed the Moto Knee and Versa Foot2 system, are improvements from previous versions Schultz had been using. Several of the components are redesigned to be more durable, while others are completely new designs that allow Schultz to have a more natural range of motion between his knee and foot. The system also gives more flex range with both his ankle and knee and allows for another dimension of alignment of the entire prosthesis.
We had the opportunity to discuss these exciting innovations with both Monster Mike and Protolabs.
Alice Ferng, Medgadget: Tell me about your partnership.
Mr. Schultz: I’m
excited to team up with Protolabs this year as I go into the competition at X
Games Aspen. Anyone involved with elite level competition knows the importance
of innovation, progression and adapting to challenges on the fly, and Protolabs
has been helping me to do just that, right up to the weeks or even days before
the competition. My goal is
to manufacture the highest quality and highly versatile components that allow
amputees to participate in sports and activities. Being the athlete that
depends on this equipment, it is key to have quick and reliable turnaround on
quality parts, whether they be prototype parts so we can continue to test and improve
our designs, or on-demand production parts ready for competition. Protolabs
delivers on our demands every time.
Brian Peters, Chief Marketing Officer of
Protolabs: Protolabs is proud to support ‘Monster’ Mike in creating the next
generation of action sports prosthesis. This collaboration is truly
special, it’s a testament to the potential of digital manufacturing and what it
can do to not only accelerate production, but also improve lives of those who
are faced with adversity. This is exactly the type of impact that we aim to
have through our various manufacturing grants and partnerships programs.
Medgadget: How long has Protolabs been making prostheses, and has there been similar prostheses to what Mike is making? How long does fabrication typically take?
Mr. Peters: Protolabs was founded in 1999, and since that time product developers across a vast range of industries have counted on Protolabs to reduce development time, lower production parts, and get to market faster. Any product that requires custom plastic or metal parts could potentially use our services. Our automation technology enables us to produce parts in as fast as 1 day.
The medical industry makes up our
largest customer segment. We work with tens of thousands of unique product
developers each year and take customer privacy very seriously. We are only able
to share information about projects we’ve worked on with the consent of the
companies behind them. There are a few projects we’ve worked on in a related
space in which we can talk about: