Mind, Body, Spirit - January 2016
3-D Printers Changing Lives
New 3-D printers are making prosthetic devices, making limb loss a “nuisance instead of a disability.”
- by Dr. Christina Richardson, photos courtesy of Enabling the Future.
Jon Schull, a research scientist at Rochester Institute of Technology MAGIC Center created an online community, e-NABLE, that pairs children and adults with missing or deformed fingers, hands, or forearms with makers who produce customized 3-D-printed prostheses that can improve their lives.
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.
Jon Schull spoke to Gwen Ifill on the PBS Newshour on November 23rd.
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.
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