Apr 13, 2016 | By Kira

In May 2015, Google.org, the philanthropic arm of the global tech giant, initiated the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities, an open call to nonprofit organizations that are developing 3D printed, crowdsourced, data-driven, and other technological solutions for the one billion people worldwide living with disabilities.

Amongst the 1,000+ submissions received from 88 different countries, Google has selected 29 of the most promising organizations and awarded a collective $20 million in grants to help develop and scale their projects, democratizing technology for those who need it most. Notably, several winning organizations are using the power of 3D printing to create meaningful change in people’s lives.

At 3Ders.org, we have covered countless inspiring 3D printing projects that are improving the lives of people with disabilities. These include AbilityMate’s 3D printed assistive devices, creative 3D printed kids prosthetics, and 3D printed tactile maps for the visually impaired, to name just a few.

Below are some of the distinguished and open-minded organizations selected by Google.org that are using 3D printing technology to address a range of accessibility challenges and create a world that works for everyone:


Enabling the Future, or e-NABLE, is one of the most well known names in low-cost, 3D printed prosthetics. The community consists of a global network of volunteers who design and create custom, open source, 3D printed prosthetic hands for children and others in need.

From creating 3D printed superhero hands for kids to allowing a mother to care for her newborn baby, to pledging to donate 6,000 3D printed prosthetics by 2017, e-NABLE is making its mark on the world, one 3D printed hand at a time.

With $600,000 from Google.org e-NABLE will advance the design, distribution and delivery of open-source 3D printed upper-limb prosthetics.


UK-based Motivation is developing 3D printed solutions for mobility issues—in particular, the needs of wheelchair users in developing countries. Postural Support Devices (PSDs) are essential to the health, safety, and comfort of wheelchair users, however those in developing countries rarely have access to them.

To solve this issue, Motivation is testing designs for customizable 3D printed PSDs that could reduce users' risk of injury while increasing their mobility and independence.

Thanks to a $800,000 (£573,737) grant from Google, Motivation will further test their customizable 3D printed designs. In order to make them locally accessible, the company plans to share the designs with 3D printing service providers via an open database, and test a manufacturing model that 3D prints PSD’s on-demand at converted shipping containers.

My Human Kit

My Human Kit was launched by Nicolas Huchet, the French maker who designed his own ‘Bionicohand’ 3D printed robotic prosthetic for just $250. Given that of the millions of amputees worldwide, 80% live in developing countries and only 10% have access to prosthesis, Huchet’s My Human Kit (MHK) has set out to develop an online platform that connects those in need to low-cost, open source 3D printed prosthetics.

With support from Google, MHK will develop five new 3D printed prosthetic prototypes, each designed for a different physical disability. The organization predicts that in the first two years alone, each design will be downloaded and 3D printed 1,000 times worldwide.

Leprosy Mission Trust India & Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust

The Leprosy Mission Trust (LMT) and Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust are two of the three Indian disability nonprofits recently awarded by Google.org. Both are using 3D scanning and 3D printing technology in service of India’s disabled population.

Leprosy is a devastating disease that can cause severe disfigurement and deformities. LMT India focuses on creating low-cost, 3D printed footwear that lets people with leprosy maintain the ability to walk. With its $350,000 grant, the LMT will establish a centralized facility to 3D scan and 3D print custom footwear, and will pilot an end-to-end shoe design, production, and delivery process at two Leprosy Mission Trust India hospitals.

As for Ratna Nidhi, the organization has received an identical sum to develop 3D scanning software that will scan amputees' limbs and allow for the creation of comfortable, custom-made, and cost-effective 3D printed prosthetic sockets. Their goal is to ensure that everyone—particularly those in rural India—have access to well-fitting sockets that can increase their mobility and quality of life.

Nia Technologies

Canadian nonprofit Nia Technologies has received a $400,000 grant from Google.org to develop 3D PrintAbility, a system that uses 3D scanning, 3D modeling, and 3D printing technology to significantly reduce the cost and production times associated with prosthetic and orthotic devices.

In particular, Nia Technologies aims to promote this technology for developing countries, where the lack of orthopedic workshops and technicians is sorely felt. In Uganda alone, there are more than 90,000 disabled children, yet only 12 practicing orthopedic technologists to help them.

Beit Issie Shapiro & TOM

Last year, Google sponsored a 72-hour Bay Area Makeathon hosted by TOM (Tikkum Olam Makers) that challenged makers to develop real-world solutions for people with disabilities. Makers were given access to 3D printers and other fabrication tools, and worked directly with people with disabilities to develop tailored solutions not currently available on the market.

Now, TOM has partnered with Israeli organization Beit Issie Shapiro to create the ‘Makeathon-in-a-box’, a template for community-powered makeathons around the world that will provide makers with the tools, resources, and support they need to develop innovative, creative, and open source assistive device prototypes. The organizations have received $700,000 from Google to establish the Makeathon template and promote innovation in the global accessibility sector.

Mission Arm & EXII

Japanese NGO Mission Arm and advanced prosthetic manufacturer Exii have partnered to develop and scale the production of 3D printed upper limb prosthetics that fulfill three key requirements: functionality, aesthetic design, and affordability.

One of Exii’s first prosthetics, the myoelectric Handie, cost only $400 to produce and could be controlled via smartphone. A few years later, they released the Handiii, a next-generation 3D printed bionic prosthetic that costs even less and can be easily customized, repaired or replaced.

With support from Google.org, Mission Arm and Exii will continue to develop the design of its 3D printed prosthetic, while making it publicly available, providing more people with access to functional and truly affordable prosthetics.

These are just a few of the global nonprofit organizations awarded by the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities. The remaining winners provide solutions across five main categories: education, communication, mobility, independence, and employment. While the technologies, applications, and ambitions vary widely, what all 29 winners have in common is a commitment to make the world more accessible via open source technology-based solutions.

Whether its mouth-operated mobile devices, smart glasses for the visually impaired, or mapping technology for people in wheelchairs, each of these innovative companies is working to broaden people’s access to technology and expand their opportunities and independence, regardless of their physical or cognitive disabilities. Each project is an inspiration, and further proof that technology, including rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing, can and will make the world a better place.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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