Jun 20, 2015 | By Simon

While we’ve seen a wide range of applications for 3D printing including using the technology to create ready-made helicopter and racecar parts to computer housings and more, it’s difficult to argue that one of the best uses for the technology has been in creating low-cost and fully-customized prosthetic devices for children.

Photo credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

When considering the high cost of traditionally manufactured prosthetics - which can range anywhere in the tens of thousands of dollars for each prosthetic - alone paired with a growing body, it becomes clear why many children decided to not where a prosthetic at all … until 3D printed prosthetics came along, of course.

Among other organizations that have helped pave the way for making it easier than ever to connect 3D printing providers and engineers with those in need of the actual prosthetics is e-NABLE.  To date, the organization has been responsible for not only connecting capable engineers with children and families in need of the prosthetic devices, but also for making these experiences once-in-a-lifetime moments that feature appearances from superheroes, celebrities and other role models that the children look up to.  

An example of the hand design process

Last month, e-NABLE announced that they had received a $600,000 grant from Google to help aid the organization’s efforts and continue to connect engineers with children and families in need.  Now, the organization has announced what they are planning to do with the generous funds.  

Among other details, the Enable Community Foundation (ECF) announced that they are planning on using the money to hire more staff to help with the operations, to create new Handomatic software and perhaps most impressive of all, they plan on putting 6,000 3d printed prosthetic hands out into the world for children in need.  

The decision to hire new staff (three total) is part of an overall effort to help make the expanding e-NABLE network as smooth as possible for both the creators as well as the receivers.  Additionally, the staff will aid volunteers in creating the prosthetics while also collecting data on how to continually make the experience more seamless.  Ultimately, the goal is to develop not only a portfolio of optimized prosthetic designs for a wide range of users but also an optimized user experience for all stakeholders involved - including breaking down any language barriers so that everybody has access to the network.   

In addition to creating a tighter distribution network, e-NABLE also wants to upgrade their Handomatic app - which lets anyone measure and create a prosthetic hand for a specific wearer and 3D print the resulting model - to be more effective in the design process.  Additionally, a mobile offering is in the works to make measuring in the field an easier and more friendly user experience.  

Finally - and perhaps the most ambitious of all - the goal of putting new prosthetic hands on 6,000 children worldwide in the next two years will be made possible by lowering the average cost of the prosthetics from $45 to $25 and reducing the time it takes to get a finished product to a wearer by at least 60%.

Ultimately, it’s become clear that e-NABLE has outgrown their shell and are ready to deliver prosthetic devices to every corner of the world.  Of course, none of this would be possible without the low cost and ease of customization that 3D printing offers.  If this isn’t one of finest examples of additive manufacturing being put to good use on a global scale then we don’t know what is.



Posted in 3D Printing Services



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Robin Berman wrote at 11/18/2015 8:17:35 PM:

Hi There, I'm the creative director at Atmel, and most of the 3D printers use our parts. Can I use the image of the child with the hand as seen on this page for our website? My contact is robin.berman@atmel.com 650-996-4626

Printing Partner wrote at 6/29/2015 3:13:22 PM:

I agree! Thanks for the important article; I believe that this is one of the best examples for the amazing potential and contribution of the 3d printing technology to humanity. 3dprintingpartner.com

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