Aug 23, 2016 | By Tess

The prayers of one Katelyn Vincik, a five-year old from Victoria, Texas, have been answered. The young girl, who was born with an underdeveloped left hand and who has been on a waiting list for a functional prosthetic for some time, has been gifted with a 3D printed prosthetic thanks to the hard work and dedication from the Harris County Public Library.

Katelyn’s parents reached out to the library after learning that it was equipped with a maker space and 3D printing lab. The lab, called the Jocelyn H. Lee Innovation Lab, was funded by the late Jocelyn H. Lee and is run and operated by a number of volunteers, all of whom jumped at the chance to help make the little girl a prosthetic hand.

The process to make the hand began when Katelyn and her parents drove nearly three hours to the Harris County Public Library where a team of volunteers—led by innovation lab trainer Patrick Ferrel—took the young girl’s arm and hand measurements. As Ferrel explains in an interview, the whole team had worked with 3D printing equipment before but had never made a prosthetic. He says: “We were pretty upfront with the family. None of us had any experience with prosthetics. We know how to make 3-D prints, and we know how to build things. But none of us have specific experience with prosthetics. And the family was willing to go along with it, even though none of us really knew exactly what we were doing. We were confident that we could make one. We’d just never done it before.”

And make one they did—with some help, of course. The prosthetic hand itself was based on open-source designs made available through e-NABLE and Team UnLimbited, which the volunteers resized and tweaked using digital modeling software so that the hand would fit Katelyn. Once the 3D model was satisfactory, the volunteers set about 3D printing each component of the hand (there were about three dozen of them) and subsequently assembled them using fasteners, bands, and other bits. The hand itself was printed from Katelyn favorite colors—pink and purple—and is designed to clench the fingers when the arm is bent, allowing the five-year-old some added mobility.

Once the 3D printed prosthetic was complete, Ferrel delivered it to the young girl, whose excitement was palpable. To make the event even more exciting, Ferrel delivered the hand on a Saturday afternoon when Katelyn’s whole family and friends were over for a family gathering so all of them got to experience the happiness that the 3D printed hand brought Katelyn, who can now hold a cell phone more easily and ride a bike.

Ferrel said of the experience: “I will tell you that this kid, she’s just a bubbly, happy smiling kid that lights up a room. But when she put the arm up, and she lit up even brighter — that was impressive.”

Of course, there were some structurally weak points with the initial 3D printed prosthetic for Katelyn, which with the help of her father and the library volunteers have since been fixed (such as the installation of stronger hinge pins, for instance). With the success of their first 3D printed prosthetic, the Harris County Public Library is hoping to expand the uses of its 3D printing lab to help others like Katelyn.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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