Mar 10, 2017 | By Tess

The Victoria Hand Project, a Canadian non-profit that is helping to make 3D printed prosthetic hands more accessible in remote and developing parts of the world, is in the running for a $750,000 award through Google’s Impact Challenge. The British Colombia-based initiative is one of ten Canadian finalists in the challenge, which recognizes groups and organizations that are making a positive social impact with technology.

Founded just a few years ago, the Victoria Hand Project has already helped people in Nepal, Guatemala, Ecuador, Haiti, Cambodia, and Egypt, fitting about 70 people with 3D printed prosthetic hands. If it wins the $750K award from the Google Impact Challenge, the non-profit would continue its work, upping production of the 3D printed prosthetics and extending its reach even more.

Michael Peirone, project designer and a recent biomedical engineering graduate, said: “If we win, we can expand into at least five new countries, and we can build hands for 750 people free of charge to them. Getting picked out of hundreds of projects in Canada, and by a company like Google, it’s pretty exciting.”

Traditionally, prosthetic limbs are costly medical devices to manufacture and provide, which inevitably makes them inaccessible to large parts of the world’s population. In countries where medical systems are not well funded, those in need of prosthetics are often left to fend without them. In recent years, however, 3D printing has offered a way to make low-cost, often custom-fitted prosthetics.

The 3D printed prosthesis that The Victoria Hand Project produces was originally designed in the 1990s by Dr. Nikolai Dechev, a professor at the University of Victoria (he designed it as a master’s student at the University of Toronto). At the time, the prosthetic was too expensive to manufacture, so the design was put aside until 2013, when a mechanical engineering student suggested using 3D printers to manufacture the device.

Since that revelation, the organization has been working to provide clinics in poor regions across the world with 3D printing and scanning equipment. The Victoria Hand Project also provides printing supplies and teaches local technicians how to use the 3D printing technology to manufacture the prosthetic hands. The prosthetic hand, which includes adaptive grasp and movable thumb functions, costs a total of about $300 to make (including fees for the prosthetists and technicians). Compared to traditional prosthetics, which can cost thousands, $300 is much more accessible.

The impact of providing low-cost prosthetics is great. “In some countries, if people are missing a limb, they are ostracized from society or can’t get a job,” explained Peirone. “After we give them a hand, they’re able to get a job. We have people using a pen and writing on a piece of paper again.”

Voting for the Google Impact Challenge is open until March 28. If you’re interested in supporting The Victoria Hand Project, you can cast your vote here. Winners will be announced on March 30, 2017.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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