Apr 6, 2016 | By Alec

We here at 3ders.org love to report on startups because their product ideas are often so innovative, fresh and full of energy. Sometimes, however, startups are also inspiring for their backstory. That combination can be found in the very young Havenlabs startup, a non-profit seeking to provide US war veterans with customizable 3D printed prosthetics. Though only a few months old, Havenlabs has found enough backing on GoFundMe to purchase a 3D printer, and have acquired a Google office scholarship for a free office space over the summer. But they are also very inspiring.

Its co-founder River Castelonia is actually a failed physics student who found inspiration and optimism in his family and has turned that into this amazing startup while simultaneously studying engineering at Manhattan College. As he explained in a recent TEDx Talk at Manhattan College, he isn’t exactly a typical startup founder – who are by and large the top of their class. Instead, he struggled with numerous courses in Physics, having to take Calculus 3 three times, among others. Eventually he was told Physics wasn’t for him. Instead of letting his dreams fall apart around him, he took inspiration from his grandfather’s experiences of the horrors of war, and sought to overcome his own shortcomings. Switching to Manhattan College and a major more suited to his capabilities, he focused on making a real contribution to veterans like his grandfather, many of whom are living with missing limbs.

Through exposure to 3D printing and scanning technology at the college, River found inspiration. Teaming up with co-founders Brian Sopok and Ronald Mogg, Havenlabs was founded last year and they have been working on prosthetics for amputees ever since. Most of their work takes place with a very limited budget. During the first four months, they finally developed their 3D printable Utility Gauntlet design, which is one of the best prosthetic designs we’ve seen. “This is a prosthetic designed for upper limb amputee's which will have various attachments that can be inserted and removed at the convenience of the amputee. It can be easily slipped on or off due to the 3D printed elastic bands, which secure the device to the amputee,” River explains. What’s more, it can be produced for as little as $10 and through 3D scanning, they can modify their designs to guarantee an exact fit.

It’s a very clever and out-of-the-box design that adds a level of flexibility that so many existing prosthetics can’t provide. While that alone could enable Havenlabs to become a success, they are looking to help as many people as possible and will open-source the design through their website. “This will allow designers and engineers around the globe to add to the ever growing library of utilities for the prosthetic and improve upon its design,” they say.

The only problem are the immense costs involved in taking this design to the next level. “The 3D scanning equipment costs approximately $1500. We are looking to get new [3D printing] equipment that will produce better quality prosthetics for each individual in need. To purchase one of these [Formlabs 3D printers] will cost approximately $3500,” they say. “This is currently one of the most advanced 3D printers on the market and would be a dramatic help for our cause by producing the results our veterans deserve. We also need to purchase the necessary material to get us started with our current prototypes.”

So where do you go from there? We can’t all find multi-million dollar investments, after all. River and his team have therefore been working hard to raise awareness, for instance at the TEDx Talk you can see below and an inspiring interview on the 3D Masterminds Podcast. They have also launched a GoFundMe campaign last January, and have since raised more than $2000, which has gone towards the purchasing of a Formlabs Form 2 printer. Most importantly, they have received a Google office scholarship for free office space in NYC over the summer.

These are all modest, but very important steps towards helping veterans in need. “This funding would also allow us to have a permanent space for our lab. We will bring amputee's in to give these amazing individuals the best experience possible. Once we have a finalized prototype, we hope to partner with a veterans hospital, River says. We can only hope they are successful. It’s also a very inspiring story for all those people out there who have a good idea, but lack the necessary funds. As River asks us in his TEDx Talk, “The next time that you fail, will you let that make you a failure?”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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