Apr 6, 2017 | By Tess
Mat Bowtell, a maker, full-time engineer, and father living in Melbourne, Australia, has gone above and beyond with his 3D printing skills, 3D printing prosthetic hands and fingers for children around the world, all for no cost. Bowtell, who has been making 3D printed assistive devices for over two years now, even designed his own 3D printable “Kinetic Finger,” a functional prosthetic for partial finger amputees.
Bowtell first became interested in designing and 3D printing prosthetics when he was offered a scholarship to study in Japan. There, he was given the chance to work with robotics and even to work with a state-of-the-art bionic arm that was worth over $1 million. This work made him wonder what types of prosthetics and devices could be available to the average person—those who can’t afford a $1 million arm.
Spurred on by this question, Bowtell got to work and invested $5,000 of his own money in 3D scanning and 3D printing equipment, and began designing what is now his free license “Kinetic Finger”. Not only is the 3D printed prosthetic capable of moving and functioning similarly to a real finger, it only costs $1 to manufacture. (Bowtell says the velcro across the wrist is the most expensive component.)
One of the main challenges he encountered was in dispatching his 3D printed prosthetics to children around the world. As Bowtell explained, he spent nearly a hundred dollars shipping one of his 3D printed arm prosthetics to a 17-year-old girl in Iraq. Encouraged by friends and family, the maker decided to set up a $7,000 crowdfunding campaign via My Cause to raise the shipping funds. Amazingly, the campaign, which launched in February 2017, has now raised over $33,000, with one donor even pledging $10,000.
“I would like to accelerate my activities designing and making prosthetics for people locally, as well as for amputees in war-torn areas such as Iraq and Syria,” reads Bowtell’s My Cause page. “Through this crowdfunding campaign, I am hoping to raise funding for a larger 3D printer (400 mm x 400 mm x 500 mm), as well as to help cover costs for international postage and materials (3D printer filament, silicone, padding, finger grips and hardware).”
Over the past couple years, Bowtell has already made a significant difference in many people’s lives: from a four-year-old Australian boy who needed a prosthetic hand, to a Japanese man who was able to play the piano again thanks to a Kinetic Finger, to the Syrian girl who needed an arm prosthetic, and many more. Bowtell, fully aware that medical-grade prosthetics are not readily available to people everywhere, is hoping to make at least a small impact, especially in war-torn regions like Iraq and Syria.
“I want to make legs for land-mine victims in Columbia and Syria,” he said. “I can also purchase better quality 3D printers and show other Aussies how to make them so there are more being produced. We need more than just myself on the project. One arm takes about 20 hours to tune and another 20 to print.”
(Images: My Cause | Mat Bowtell)
With the funding, Bowtell is also hoping to develop new types of assistive devices, such as a stabilizer to help people with Parkinson’s eat more easily. (All this in addition to his full time engineering job at Toyota.) “I think everyone should consider the skills they have and put them to good use. We're driven by money nowadays but it doesn't give us any real satisfaction. To be able to help someone for free is total happiness,” he added.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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Patricia Nuku wrote at 4/8/2017 6:07:40 AM:
Hi iam a mother of two boys born with no left hand from the wrist due to my father serving in Vietnam my mother was Malaysian an iam the only sibling born with this birth defect I live in New Zealand an iam wanting to know the cost for one of these kinetic hands My email address is email@example.com