The creation of e-NABLE started with a steampunk convention. Ivan Owen created a functional metal hand as part of a costume, and posted a YouTube video online. A South African carpenter who had lost his fingers in a woodworking accident saw the video and contacted Owen – could he possibly help him design a prosthetic that would allow him to use his hand again? The transcontinental collaboration led to what no one knew at the time would be the first creation of e-NABLE, which has snowballed into a global community of over 7,000 makers devoting their time to creating 3D printed prosthetic hands and arms for people who need them.
One of the many great things about e-NABLE is that it continues to inspire collaboration. All designs are free and open source, leading to devices that evolve as hundreds of people make improvements, alterations and suggestions. Jen Owen, Ivan’s wife and a central member of e-NABLE, thinks that the community can be challenged further, and so has introduced an official series of design challenges. Create T.I.M.E. (Think. Imagine. Make. E-NABLE.) will introduce a new challenge every month, aimed at expanding the range of devices and encouraging new ideas.
“Sometimes I get interesting requests in my email inbox requesting help designing assistive devices for animals of all types or individuals who have other needs that could benefit from a community of creatively minded makers willing to donate their time to collaborate and come up with solutions for those in need,” Owen says.
The challenges are aimed at makers and designers of all ages, but Owen thinks that they will particularly appeal to kids. Several schools and youth organizations have been using e-NABLE projects as a way to introduce young people to 3D printing and supplement STEM learning, and Owen believes that Create T.I.M.E. will “encourage young minds to think outside of the box.” Some challenges will involve the creation of entirely new devices, while others invite improvements to be made to existing designs.
The first challenge asks participants to design new attachments for the Python Utility Hand, a basic hand designed specifically so that utilitarian attachments could be easily connected.
“Many of our younger recipients have asked for task specific devices that they can simply switch out as needed and have given some suggestions for attachments they would be most excited about to connect to the Python hand,” says Owen. “Some of the requests range from simple devices that can hold a fingernail polish paint brush to something that can assist a child who wants to get a better grip on a video game controller or who simply wants to open a jar of pickles with ease!”
Submissions for the first challenge are being accepted starting today until March 31; winners will be announced on April 16. The winning designs will be chosen by a panel of children and adults who are currently using e-NABLE devices; if a design is selected, it will be printed and shipped to one of the users, who will test it out and post a video to the e-NABLE blog. Winners will receive official medals, and top winners will be given a choice between a roll of filament from sponsor AxisLab or a $25 gift certificate to have a design of their choice printed and mailed to them.
Full contest rules and submission guidelines can be found here. Want to participate, but don’t have a 3D printer? E-NABLE has several suggestions for places you can go to access a printer. Businesses, if you’re interested in sponsoring a design challenge, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us your thoughts on this new direction e-NABLE is taking in the e-NABLE 3D Create T.I.M.E. Design Challenge forum over at 3DPB.com.