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About Snell
Our History
   
 

Four Generations of Excellence

When R. W. “Pop” Snell began his company, Snell’s Limbs and Braces, back in 1911, there were no rules or precedents to guide him as he first began handcrafting each custom-fitted artificial limb. The only guideline he utilized was his own belief that an important need required him to begin a generations-long voyage of discovery in a continuing search for better and better solutions.


With no established norm to follow, Snell set his own style, responding proactively and creatively. From those early limbs fashioned of rawhide and red willow, through the following war years and the wave of returning disabled veterans in need of his services, the business prospered.

It was a business to which the family remained committed. From the beginning, the Snells created the benchmark for quality and service in the fields of prosthetics and orthotics.

When the first standards tests were established in 1948, Ed Snell was among the first wave of practitioners to qualify as a Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist (CPO). The company also strongly supported the Veterans’ Administration’s earliest efforts to encourage progress and development by testing new components and designs, and assessing and reporting the results of research conducted in Snell’s own laboratory.

Current Snell Laboratory president Frank Snell, CPO, FAAOP, a great-nephew of the original founder, began working alongside his father at the rapidly-growing company as early as age 14, developing the skills required for an Orthotist/Prosthetist. When he joined the company full-time in 1972 as a graduate of Northwestern University, he brought with him new marketing and management skills and methods as well as new insights and goals.

His improvements included changing the company’s name in 1976—to the current Snell Prosthetic & Orthotic Laboratory. By the time Ed Snell retired and his son assumed the company presidency in 1984, more changes were under way. Foreseeing the coming climate of empowerment for the disabled as reflected in such legislation as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Frank Snell oversaw the construction of the current Little Rock office at 625 North University Avenue, rapidly followed by the opening of satellite offices across the state. In addition, Frank quickly determined that CAD/CAM technology was worth investing in and thus became the first independent prosthetics and orthotics facility in Arkansas to implement computer aided design and manufacturing in the late 1980’s.

The family continues its mission with Frank Snell’s daughter Melissa Snell joining the company in 1999, bringing her own insights and fresh perspective to the company’s growth pattern. Today, she is the vice president of Business Development for the practice. As well, son Brant Snell, RPT, upholds the family tradition joining the company in 1997and currently working alongside his father as a prosthetic technician.

Snell Laboratory has witnessed amazing progress in the field of prosthetics since Pop Snell originally fit the company's first patients with wood and rawhide prosthetic limbs. The decades since have brought many improvements through the use of lighter-weight thermosetting resins with their superior strength and durability, while more modern developments have relied on the use of materials such as acrylics, thermoplastics and epoxy resins. Today's hi-tech componentry and microprocessor technologies continue to greatly improve the devices that Snell fabricates.

Orthotics, too, has made dramatic strides during Snell Laboratory’s nearly 100-year history. The heavy metal support braces and orthoses once used to benefit polio survivors and patients with muscular weaknesses have metamorphosed into today’s light, strong plastics. The leather used for orthotics originally had to be hand-cut, water-soaked, shaped and adjusted with a hammer over a 10- to 14-day period. Today’s NASA-inspired plastic orthoses are shaped by wrapping them around heat-molded therma-cork materials, in a process that takes less than two days. In 2006, Snell Laboratory became one of the first independent facilities in the nation to undergo training in myo-orthotics technology, with the Walk-Aide device. Today, the practice is one of the leaders in the country in applying this myo-orthotic device, when appropriate.

Thanks to our shared concern for quality and determined pursuit of the best ways and means to serve our patients, today our capabilities offer an amazing variety of possibilities which enable the disabled to lead more active, mobile, and independent lives.

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