Over and over again, we have been reporting on stories where individuals with missing limbs and phalanges have seen their lives vastly improved, through the use of 3D printing. This latest story takes us to Phoenix, Arizona where a long time pipe fitter and handyman lost three of his fingers in a freak accident.
Howard Kamarata, 57, was just doing what he normally does — handyman work — last October. He was working at his home, on an outdoor project, when he accidentally cut off four of his fingers on a miter saw. Unfortunately for Kamarata, only one of his four fingers (his pinkie) was able to be reattached. The others had been too severely mangled by the saw to have any chance of survival. Kamarata ended up losing his three middle fingers from the middle knuckle forward, and he was left unable to do most of his routine, everyday activities.
“You can’t be a pipe fitter with one hand,” Kamarata said.
After working as a pipe fitter for 35 years, he was unable to even perform previously simple tasks, such as picking up and dialing his phone. Kamarate reached a point where he was beginning to fall into depression, due to changes in his life that he had no control over.
“‘What am I going to do now?’ That’s what I thought,” he explained. “What would I be good for?”
Getting traditional prosthetic fingers were not an option. Kamarata was not about to fork over tens of thousands of dollars for these medical devices. It just wasn’t feasible for him.
Kamarata then ran into a friend named Casey Barrett, who was an industrial designer. Barrett could tell that Kamarata was quite upset with his situation, and wanted to help out. “A few months earlier, I had seen a video online of someone who made a hand for a child,” explained Barrett. “I thought it was really cool. I did some more research, and found someone who had made a design that would work for Howard. As a design engineer, I was interested in 3-D printing. Maybe this was an opportunity for me to learn more.”
Barrett found designs for prosthetic fingers on the internet, and went ahead and printed them out on a 3D printer supplied by a man named Dan Perlmutter of Graphic Design Services. He combined these 3D printed fingers with a glove, some high-strength braided fishing line, some wires, pins, and screws.
The creation cost less than $100 to construct, and the new device allowed Kamarata to once again flex his fingers enough to pick up objects. “I was able to hold things again,” Kamarata said. “I could pick up a water bottle.”
While Kamarata feels a whole lot better, and is once again able to perform normal functions around the house, he still will not be able to return to work as a Pipe fitter again. This is just fine with him though, as he now has a new passion; helping others with missing fingers get their hands on these amazingly affordable prosthetic devices.
This just goes to show how a little help from a friend, combined with open source designs via the internet, and a 3D printer, can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Discuss Kamarata’s story in the 3D Printed Prosthetic Finger forum thread on 3DPB.com
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