“Monster” Mike Schultz lost his left leg after he was thrown from his snowmobile during a race in 2008. The amputation didn’t hold him back.
Seven months later, the St. Cloud resident won a silver medal in adaptive motocross at the ESPN X Games with a rugged prosthetic racing leg that he designed to handle the unforgiving terrain.
The lifelong tinkerer, now 38, went on to create his own business. Today BioDapt Inc. engineers mechanical knees and prosthetic limbs so other amputees can have the strength and reliability needed in rough-and-tumble sports.
Schultz’s customers include hundreds of veterans, cancer survivors and other athletes from around the world. Still, Schultz hasn’t lost sight of continuing to improve his creations.
Determined to make a better leg for himself after winning gold and silver in snowboarding at the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, Schultz designed the Moto Knee and Versa Foot 2 system. The new prosthetic parts, recently manufactured by Maple Plain-based Protolabs, helped Schultz take home the gold on Jan. 25 at the adaptive snow bikecross competition at the 2020 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.
His 10th X Games victory was extra special since it came using Schultz’s first full redesign in about 10 years. The new parts, milled by robotic machines in Protolab’s Brooklyn Park plant, gave Shultz “a more natural range of motion” between the mechanical knee and foot, he said.
Schultz selected Protolabs to turn his product design into reality because of its fast production capabilities, he said.
Protolabs’s robotic-milling machines whittled blocks of aluminum into precise parts in just hours, which meant Schultz could quickly test and fine-tune his components. He could even swap the new parts into some of his other leg frames, he said.
“I’m excited to team up with Protolabs,” said Schultz. “I put a lot of effort into developing the new equipment. Anyone involved with elite level competition knows the importance of innovation, progression and adapting to challenges on the fly. And this season, Protolabs has been helping me to do just that, right up to the weeks or even days before the competition.”
The new leg parts enhanced durability but ensured the prosthetic was light enough to function well regardless of whether Schultz was bounding on a snowmobile or standing on a snowboard. The changes also helped him maintain balance while shifting his weight during leaps and landings, he said.
Schultz said he’ll share his new knee and foot linkage system with other amputees who want to race, or just crave more natural motion. With Protolabs serving as the robotic manufacturer, Schultz said he can get his designs converted into professionally made parts “fast.”
For example, he uploaded 11 design drawings to Protolabs the Tuesday before the X Games race. He picked up the parts two days later at Protolabs’ Brooklyn Park factory.
“He was unboxing them like a kid at Christmas. He was so excited,” said Protolabs manufacturing operations director Scott Pedersen.
Pedersen was just as excited. “The thing that struck me most about Mike was he talked about his original accident and how he got back up in eight months. He turned it into a business. And now helps others. He even makes parts for his competitors. That is one of the most inspiring things.”
Schultz, who also gives motivational speeches, said his goal “is to manufacture the highest quality and highly versatile components that allow amputees to participate in sports and activities … [and] to show what an adaptive athlete is capable of on a snowbike.”