Dec 31, 2015 | By Kira
Learning to ride a bike is synonymous with most people’s childhoods, but imagine having to do so if you were born without a left hand. That was the case for fearless, eight-year-old ‘shredder’ Jimmy Wilson, who not only loved to bike, but dreamt of performing crazy tricks, jumps, and 360-degree spins on his BMX. In order to make his dreams come true, Peter Binkley of e-NABLE teamed up with Intel and pro-BMX athlete Jeremiah Smith to design a custom-made, 3D printed prosthetic hand that would allow Jimmy to grip his handlebar and get to work on his barspins, tailwhips, and other daredevil BMX moves.
We’ve written a lot about Enabling the Future (e-NABLE) in the past. The innovative and inspiring global community is responsible for designing and creating open-source, custom-made 3D printed prosthetics, and then providing them to children and families in need, completely free of cost. What’s more, individual e-NABLE volunteers often go above and beyond to make the child’s experience of receiving their 3D printed prosthetic as meaningful and ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ as possible, calling on superheroes, celebrities or other role models that children look up to in order to send the message that no matter what limitations or obstacles you face in life, you can still accomplish anything you set out to do.
For Jimmy, the e-NABLE community made no exception. It all began with Binkley, whose own son was born without fingers and who inspired him a few years ago to learn about 3D printed prosthetics—a significantly less expensive alternative to traditionally-made prosthetic limbs, that also provide the advantage of being completely customized to the needs of the wearer. Binkley teamed up with Intel for, and pro-BMXer Jeremiah Smith, who describes his job as “riding a little kids bike for a living”, for invaluable insight into what it’s like to ride a BMX, and what demands the 3D printed prosthetic would need to satisfy in order to let Jimmy ride safely and effectively.
One of the key design features turned out to be how to get a firm grip on the handlebar. The majority of 3D printed prosthetics are designed to look more or less like a human hand, with four fingers and a thumb. However, the mechanics of those prosthetics don’t usually allow for a tight grip. Instead, Binkley pictured a socket-ball design that would give Jimmy’s arm the freedom to swivel without losing contact with the handlebar.
“What I was thinking first is that you’d need to have a swivel that rotates on the Z-axis, but then you’d also need something that you need to be able to rock,” explained Binkley. “That’s the plan. Is to connect a ball to the handlebar, and then make a socket that Jimmy can wear on his hand to pop over the ball. That should give him a lot of mobility.”
After using an Intel-powered device to design his 3D model around Jimmy’s unique anatomy, he exported the files and got to 3D printing it on his Ultimaker 2 3D printer. This isn’t the first time we've covered Intel's inroads into 3D printing. The tech company previously held a ‘Make it Wearable’ 3D printed prosthetics contest, and announced its first ever Intel Inside desktop 3D printer, among other advancements.
Finally, it’s time for the moment of truth. In a two-part video produced by Intel (included below), not only do we see Jimmy riding around on his BMX, he even goes up and down a few ramps and jumps off a high deck. Most importantly, he finally meets Smith, one of his BMX role models, in person.
“I feel like he’s a little fearless. He told me that he was terrified to go down some of the ramps, and then a couple minutes later, he’s going down the exact same ramp he said he was terrified to go down, and that’s really all you need,” said Smith. “It’s all about trial and error, and just going for it.”
Additionally, Binkley said that his 3D printed prosthetic is a prototype, meaning that as Jimmy grows and tests it out, they can make the necessary changes to improve the device and share it with other children in need. This inspiring story just goes to show that whether your passion is adrenaline-pumping motocross sports or just being able to ride a two-wheeler, no obstacle is too great, especially with the power of 3D printing technology and a selfless community such as e-NABLE on your side.
“When you make a device for a person, there is a kind of satisfaction that comes from putting a smile on someone’s face that you just never forget, you never let go,” said Binkley. “There are definitely thousands of people around the world that would benefit from that technology, from that device, we just need reach them.”
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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