Introduction: Plastic Soda Bottle Prosthesis

Picture of Plastic Soda Bottle Prosthesis

Please cast your vote for the CIR's Pepsi Refresh submission to Provide Cost-Effective Prosthetic Care in Underserved Midwestern Areas -

We would like to thank everyone for their kind comments, ratings, and votes. A video demonstration of this process has been produced and uploaded to YouTube. In addition, the Technical Note previously submitted to the Prosthetics and Orthotics International Journal has been accepted for publication in the near future. If you would like to know more please feel free to contact us.

In resource-limited areas worldwide, individuals with amputations may not be able to gain access to prosthetics devices due to a lack of the materials needed to fabricate them. This simple technique utilizes a 2-liter soda bottle to create below-the-elbow prosthesis suitable for a number of light-duty activities.

Please note well that this technique is intended for use by trained prosthetists and it is intended to be preformed only using a plaster cast of the residual limb.

The contents of this presentation/publication were developed under a grant from the Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research grant number H133E030017. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

- 2-liter plastic soda bottle
- heat gun
- formed plaster model of residual limb (amputation stump)
- hose clamp
- section of 1/2" PVC pipe
- band or manual saw
- utility knife

Step 1:

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1. Remove the bottom of the bottle and place over the plaster model. Then apply heat to the lower portion to form the trimline.

Step 2:

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2. Heat the bottle until it conforms to the shape of the plaster model. This process takes about 15 minutes. Ensure that the bottle has fully conformed to the shape of the plaster model.

Step 3:

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3. Mark and cut the trimline.

Step 4:

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4. Make a cut through the threaded portion of the bottle.

Step 5:

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5. Insert a piece of 1/2" PVC pipe with a terminal device, and secure with a hose clamp.

Step 6:

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6. This "light-duty" prosthesis allows for static loading of at least 4 kgs while on the plaster model.

Multiple sockets can be quickly, easily, and inexpensively created and combined with various terminal devices for functional light-duty activities such as feeding, showering, drawing, or cosmesis.


TerrynRobbe (author)2016-06-14

Nice project! I was also busy with a project around prosthetics and extensions for prosthetics. We need more tools like this! Feel free to check it out:

Kind regards,

milesnorth (author)2015-02-28

Very timely and inspirational!

zomfibame (author)2012-08-19


escapefromyonkers (author)2010-09-07

i really like this instructable, i just stumbled across it, i wonder i i could use a mod of this to make a mold of my left leg , below the knee, mainly calf muscles, which is very muscular and make a snap on PET for my right leg below the knee, which is extremely atrophied due to spinal injury, the muscle are denerved, fibroids now.
if i could make a snap on PET form, it would not be weight bearing at all ,
purely cosmetic , Matching skin tone may be to far out of my reach' much, but if i made it to sock height it still would be huge improvement,
i may try the technique used in making an AFO , plaster positive that is split , and see if i can make a snap on PET.
it be interesting. IT is purely cosmetic, no weight bearing., probably cover it with a sock.

EggHead101 (author)2010-04-29

Oh I forgot to mention. . . . Adding labels to the various "attachments". This way if a friend is over ... or someone. You could say "Hey can you bring me my "multi-tool" attachment?" Or my bottle opener ... you get the idea !
I saw somewhere a modified "Grabber" that attatched and was used by extending the elbo to grasp, and release when pulled back, but I can't find it anymore. It was a hand made device. It was also reversible.

EggHead101 (author)2010-04-29

Fantastic.  I would make Two though. One as described and another that utilizes the threads on the bottle.
Easy enough to glue or screw a cap to something usefull = fast swap.

Also using the Pipe/hose clamp is wonderful - I would swap out the standard "screw" for a large Wing-nut so one can easily swap devices without needing a tool to loosen the nut / screw...

Wonderful Instructable

Ranie-K (author)2010-03-12

I have a cool, but less "idealistic" application for this great idea:


Make a positive copy of your camera: Cover it with a condom (or robber glove sleeve) and plastic wrap. Roll on a layer of soaked plaster bandage. Let harden and take apart. Coat with petroleum jelly or dish washing liquid. Re-assemble and fill with plaster. Let harden for several days, remove mold and polish positive.

Measure that the positive is as big as the camera. If not, tape a material like 1mm thick cardboard to the flattest sides -perhaps also over the display area, so the armor will be 1mm away from the screen.

Then do the same process as for the prosthetics, and cut holes where you need to access buttons and tripod threads.

Instead of pulling out the positive, you may need to destroy it to get it out; don't bang the plastic too much in the process, since that may discolor it.

wiley coyote (author)2010-03-11

Very Cool use.  Brilliant!

I've used this material in similar ways, for other projects and it is very durable and readily replaceable, if you screw up.  You cannot get better than that. 

Very useful for sealing, or coupling, the ends of tubes as well.

Thur (author)2010-01-21

It's amazing what one could do with a little ingenuity. Just imagine all of the wasted bottles cluttering the landfills. Funny how we don't realize the potential of such common things.

beehard44 (author)2009-10-30

 maybe kipkay will be motivated and make a burning laser prosthesis.....

Iyer2711 (author)2009-07-17

You have no clue who all would thank you for this. Wow!

yokozuna (author)2009-05-02

Fantastic, a deserving winner, five stars. Any ideas for easy hand tools that could interchange into the PVC (maybe more versatile than the paintbrush)?

CIRnetwork (author)yokozuna2009-05-04

Thank you so much, we hope that it will prove to be very useful for people who have undergone transradial amputation. Any number of terminal devices can be fitted into a PVC pipe and used with the soda bottle socket. For example, when one needs to change the terminal device, one can just unscrew the hose clamp and replace the spoon-PVC unit with brush-PVC unit. The soda bottle socket combined with a number of terminal devices can be seen here.

Because the prosthesis is intended for light-duty activities, it is best suited to terminal devices for light-duty activities, such as the paintbrush, a sponge, spoon, or a passive cosmetic hand. Also, it is inexpensive enough to fabricate that instead of changing the terminal device several times, one could have many soda bottle prostheses with different terminal devices attached.

yokozuna (author)CIRnetwork2009-05-04

Nice video, you should imbed it in your instructable.

CIRnetwork (author)2009-03-16

A video documenting adding a second soda bottle for added strength and durability has been produced and uploaded to YouTube ( and Facebook (

Thank you to everyone who suggested trying this modification, and thank you for your continued support and encouragement.

epfroth (author)2009-02-05

This is a truly brilliant idea, with enormous potential. It seems that the heat gun (and electricity to run it) could be the weak link in some resource-poor settings. Does boiling water provide enough heat to deform the plastic? What about a pot of sand heated over a fire?

CIRnetwork (author)epfroth2009-02-05

We previously tried this method using boiling water, but found it rather difficult to control. Hot sand also may prove to be more difficult to use, but we have not tried it yet. It seems that the following may be a possible solution: using a small stove and a metal funnel or metal can that is placed downside-up, the heat can be directed through a small opening, allowing one to heat the plastic bottle one area at a time, as would be done with the heat gun.

Madrigorne (author)CIRnetwork2009-02-27

Tail pipe of a motor vehicle will work, so long as it is running.

CIRnetwork (author)Madrigorne2009-03-02

Yes, it may also be possible to use the heat from a tail pipe of a running car. Many years ago, there was a TV program which showed a man using a metal box welded on top of the tail pipe to warm-up or cook his lunch while driving. This may offer another alternative for heating the bottle, but we are not sure how easy and cost-efficient this method would be.

flatcurve (author)CIRnetwork2009-03-11

Hot oil might work as well, since it can be heated much hotter than water, up to 400 degrees.

CIRnetwork (author)flatcurve2009-03-11

We have not tried this method, but it seems that it might be a bit dangerous. In addition, it might not offer the same control over the area to be heated as a heat gun.

squarefodder (author)2009-02-28

i am a certified orthotist and prostetist my specialty is the lower extremities. I own a company that fabricates these devices and fits on patients. to give back to the world i go to hati to help doctors without borders also i help my local community when possible. getting an infrared oven oven into a 3rd world country with no electricity can be tough to say the least. this is a neat way to fab a quick device for the upper extremities. I am very impressed and will utilize this idea the next time i go. thanks so very much for the idea.

CIRnetwork (author)squarefodder2009-03-02

Thank you so much for your comment. It is so nice to hear that this technique is reaching people both inside and out of the prosthetics field. We have developed other methods that may be of interest to you as well (please see and are in the process of developing Instructables about them as well.

thepelton (author)2009-02-22

Could heat shrinking soda bottle plastic over plaster be used to make a mask, after making a plaster cast of a face?

CIRnetwork (author)thepelton2009-02-22

As presented here, heat can be used to shrink the plastic bottle in order to enclose or encapsulate a plaster model. However, on a relief-type of model it may not conform properly. Vacuum forming using clear plastic will likely yield better results more easily than the soda bottle.

shwa (author)2009-02-05

Coming from third world country and war inflicted area,where many victims of war were amputees,most of whom couldn't afford decent prosthesis ,i think this is the one of the best instructables ever,hats off to you...

thepelton (author)shwa2009-02-15

I agree. There are a number of places such as Afghanistan and Khampuchea where people have picked up odd looking things only to find they were mines at the expense of a hand. This could do a lot to give such people a sense of self worth.

CIRnetwork (author)thepelton2009-02-16

Thank you very much for your comments. This technique was developed to offer a solution for people injured by landmines, but it could be utilized by other people who have undergone amputation as well. Much of the work we do focuses in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and all too often we see civilians – often agricultural workers - who have been injured needlessly by landmines. Since comesis is an important factor in some cultures, we hope this simple socket technique can be combined with cosmetic hands. We are working to develop a simple way of fabricating a cosmetic hand, hopefully with some active function.

CIRnetwork (author)shwa2009-02-05

This technique was developed by the Center for International Rehabilitation (Chicago) for landmine survivors. The work is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education under grant number H133E030017. We are hoping to transfer this technology to prosthetics service providers in low-income countries. A paper entitled: “Technical Note: Plastic Soda Bottles: A reusable material for making transradial sockets” has been accepted by the Prosthetics and Orthotics International for publication in the near future.

smilestill (author)2009-01-30

Interesting Concept. I would not think it would be structurally sound enough for use. It may very well function as a check socket, though I would have to see it in person to verify that.

CIRnetwork (author)smilestill2009-02-02

When heated, the plastic becomes thicker and stronger, but also gives some flexibility providing a greater level of comfort. However, it is important to remember that it is intended for “light-duty” use - even though it can support a 4kg static load on the plaster model without a stress mark or bending. There will be a clinical evaluation to determine to what extent this device can be useful. We believe that it will be effective for “light-duty” activities, such as feeding, showering, writing etc.

thepelton (author)CIRnetwork2009-02-15

In the photo, you had what appeared to be a paintbrush attached to the end. I suppose an amputee could paint with this. The only problem I could see would be cleaning the brush.

CIRnetwork (author)thepelton2009-02-16

Thank you for your comment. Likely one can simply dip the paintbrush into a bucket filled with water or hold it under running water to clean off the water-soluble paint. One could also loosen the hose clamp and remove the PVC pipe with the paintbrush for cleaning.. The socket can also be combined with a number of terminal devices, so one may have multiple prostheses with brush-terminal devices for different colors and all brushes could be cleaned at end of a job.

The low-cost feature of prosthesis fabrication technique allows one to have a number of sockets with various terminal devices as seen in the video of the fabrication method which has been uploaded to YouTube

Lagather (author)2009-02-05

Another possibility might be to replace the plastic bottle for the stump socket with corn starch based plastic.!/

CIRnetwork (author)Lagather2009-02-06

This is an interesting idea. We have used the plastic soda bottles in this application because they are readily available. I am sure the way you demonstrated will be used by some people in many applications.

Lagather (author)CIRnetwork2009-02-06

Actually, the Brendan who demonstrated the potato plastic is a different Brendan. From the comments on his post, people are trying to figure how to apply his plastic. I don't know how accessible glycerin is in developing countries, but it might lead to a stronger and more durable prosthesis. I think that the process might be able to use some of the same steps as your original process. The starch plastic has to cool and dry. The plaster of paris positive could help the drying process. might be a good follow up to your original publication/research.

thepelton (author)Lagather2009-02-15

Glycerin is derived from animal fat. It should be quite available, as long as there are no objections about it's coming from animals. I suggest you read about the origins of the Sepoy Mutiny, in regards to objections about glycerin's sources.

CIRnetwork (author)thepelton2009-02-16

Using glycerin for making plastic may be needed in some locations. We do find the plastic created to be very interesting and it seems it would have many possible applications. At this time, using the plastic soda bottle, which is quite abundant, might be easier in these areas than having to create a plastic product for use.

yotnomuk (author)2009-02-12

Congrats on the win
I was wondering how (un)comfortable it would be to have this plastic essentially wrapped around the skin for an extended period of time.
Would doing what this person does helps letting the skin "breathes" ?

CIRnetwork (author)yotnomuk2009-02-12

Thank you very much! If problems with discomfort arise, one can simply remove the prosthesis when not doing activities that require it. Wearing a thin sock or stockinete may also be used to minimize the problem.

siderits (author)2009-02-07

Outstanding, can this plastic be melted and recast or extruded for attachment points?

CIRnetwork (author)siderits2009-02-07

PET plastic has been recycled and used to make fabric or carpet. The Prostheses Foundation in Chiang Mai (Thailand) has recycled plastic bottles and the tabs of aluminum cans to fabricate prosthetic components – both are very interesting and worthwhile ideas. The technique described here is likely to be most useful in areas with limited resources, i.e., those where materials needed for prosthetic fabrication may not be available. Even though plastic bottles may be fully “recycled” to create full prostheses or components, or “reused” as seen in the technique presented here, the overall environmental impact will likely be limited due to the large number of bottles produced and used worldwide. We are pleased to see that there are so many innovative ways of reusing plastic bottles being submitted to Instructables.

siderits (author)CIRnetwork2009-02-07

Just in passing, my instructable is the battery operated centrifuge for use in cytology processing in countries with limited economy. Wonder if instructables might want to break out "do the world some good" projects similar to these. Best regards

static (author)2009-02-06

intended to be preformed only using a plaster cast of the residual limb

LOL. I know you have to cover all bases, but I have to think the person who's actual limb stump was being used to mold the plastic would quickly feel the insanity of it and make a quick exit! This would be a much faster method than carving a prosthesis socket out of wood. Which is how I assumed they where made, until modern lightweight. strong casting materials appeared. Hope it works out well for those who need it.

CIRnetwork (author)static2009-02-07

Both the manufacture of plastic bottles and their use to create prosthetic sockets involves the application of high heat. The process of making plastic soda bottles was described well in a segment of the TV program “How It’s Made” -

Since the plastic of a soda bottle is in a stretched state, it retains its memory, allowing it to shrink back when re-heated. When re-heating the plastic bottle, the temperature is high enough to cause serious burns. This was the reason for stating clearly that the process must be done on a plaster model.

In addition, a correct plaster model of a residual limb should be made by a professionally trained service provider who has knowledge of human anatomy, biomechanics, etc. An improperly made prosthesis can cause damage to the skin and limb structure – a problem sometimes encountered in areas with limited resources.

intotech (author)2009-02-06

This is great! I saw a vid on youtube, that was pretty cool too.

its fantastic to see people are working on heavy and light-duty options. Are amputees using this already? keep up the good work.

CIRnetwork (author)intotech2009-02-07

We also find this video to be very interesting and inspiring. We have not yet had an opportunity to see the product in person, but from the video it seems that the components used are very interesting. We also wonder how the socket is fit on the individual (i.e., is it a custom fit, or a non-custom fit?).

carpespasm (author)2009-02-05

I'd like to sing this idea's praise as well, but I'd like to know a few things as well: Is this meant to be used as a skin-tight fit or is it meant to be padded? If the former how do you soften the open edge of the plastic, and if the latter is there adequate room for padding inside the socket when it's formed so tightly? To increase the overall rigidity of this you might want to try cutting the ends off of a second and third bottle (cap and bottom side) and form those around the first bottle. I'm not sure if it would need to be held on by more than the tight fit between bottles, but it might be worth a try to increase the prosthesis' overall strength.

CIRnetwork (author)carpespasm2009-02-05

This is intended for use with a stump sock or other thin prosthetic liner. The edges of the socket should be flared out or taped as needed. As mentioned previously, the PET plastic becomes rigid after it has been heated, though your suggestions are very interesting and will be considered when additional testing is done. During the lab testing on the plaster model, we were able to hang five water-filled 2-liter soda bottles (about 10 Kg weight). The static weight caused the PVC pipe to drift down slightly, and distal portion of the socket kinked only after the bottles were pushed up and down several times. The technique is intended for use during “light-duty” self-care and functional activities. It is not designed to perform heavy-duty activities like a traditional laminated prosthesis. In the upcoming clinical evaluation, the technique will be tested, the limit of use of this technique will be defined, and further refinements or improvements will be made.

carpespasm (author)CIRnetwork2009-02-05

It sounds like you guys threw this idea out into the public eye as soon as it was possible to do so with any consensus as to what to say about it. That's very heartening to see.

About This Instructable



Bio: The Center for International Rehabilitation (CIR) is a not-for-profit organization that works in underserved and conflict-affected regions worldwide to meet the needs of people with ... More »
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