3-D Printers Changing Lives
- by Dr. Christina Richardson, photos courtesy of Enabling the Future.
Leon McCarthy was born without a left hand. His father had been searching for a low-cost prosthetic solution for his son when he found an instructional video online that showed a prosthetic hand that could be printed on a 3-D printer.
The instructions came from Ivan Owen, an inventor in Washington state and his partner Richard Van As in South Africa. They created a prosthetic hand with the intention of getting it to as many people as possible.
Mind, Body, Spirit
Enabling The Future is an organization connecting people who are in need and the 3-D printing hobbyists who volunteer to design, print, and fit the devices. A Google+ community was created for makers to collaborate, innovate and improve the open source designs.
Just like printing a document, you press print and the 3-D printer builds the object designed on the screen by putting down tiny layers of plastic to make it. A prosthetic arm — a fancy one — costs about $40,000, too much to spend on a child who would outgrow it in a year.
One in 2,000 children are born with some kind of an arm- or hand abnormality. They can’t pick things up, write, draw, or play ball with that hand. With a 3-D printer you can make a device with $20 worth of plastic. If it breaks, is outgrown, or the technology improves, just make a new arm or finger or make it another color. The devices hold up well and help kids be just like their friends, but with a cool robo-arm they may have helped design themselves.
Schull said, “You know, disability is a funny word. Disability means you can’t do something. A person has a disability if he’s in a world where he can’t do something. The technology of eyeglasses turned nearsightedness and farsightedness in to a nuisance, when it used to be a disability. New technology is going to turn things like you’re missing a hand or you can’t move your body or you have brain damage into a nuisance, rather than a disability.”
Amazing what we humans are capable of. If you have or get a 3-D printer, consider getting into the hand-making business — you will change a disability into a nuisance.