While BodyHacking Con sounds like a gathering of slasher movie fans or worse, the three-day conference that took place in Austin, Texas in February was, in many ways, a celebration of life. If you’re unfamiliar, the bodyhacking movement encompasses all forms of body modification, from tattoos to technological implants to perhaps the most life-changing modifications of all – prosthetics. 3D printed prosthetic hands took central stage for a while at this year’s convention, as attendees gathered to assemble 35 3D printed hands for the Enable Community Foundation’s ‘Hand-a-Thon.’
The 3D printed parts were donated courtesy of ROBO 3D and their “Printing With a Purpose” campaign, which took place during CES 2016. Over the course of the four days that CES ran in January, employees of ROBO 3D printed multiple prosthetic parts at their booth as they demonstrated their new printers. Those parts were then donated to Enable Community Foundation, whose Hand-a-Thon served as a team-building activity during BodyHacking Con.
“Thirty-five prosthetic hands were put together during the event, with the majority of the pieces coming from ROBO 3D,” said Melina Brown, director of case management and quality assurance for the Enable Community Foundation. “We are currently targeting the underserved communities of Latin America to receive them.”
It’s really a brilliant idea. How many times throughout the year are new 3D printers demonstrated at conferences, exhibitions and in company showrooms? That’s a lot of parts being printed simply for the sake of showing what a printer can do, and I suspect that a lot of those parts are later tossed, or handed to a potential customer to set on a desk or shelf somewhere. Imagine if all of those demonstrations were used to 3D print parts for prosthetic devices or other assistive items that could actually change the lives of people in need.
ROBO 3D was founded in 2012, developing in an unexpected way like so many technological startups do – a senior mechanical engineering project involving the design of a prosthetic leg led to the construction of a 3D printer, which led to a new business built around said 3D printer. Since then, the company has become a highly successful operation steadily churning out new printer models along with materials and accessories. The San Diego-based startup has never forgotten their beginnings, however.
“Since our company started around the idea of 3D printed prosthetics, it’s a natural progression for us to partner with the Enable Community Foundation,” said Braydon Moreno, founder of ROBO 3D. “We encourage our own ROBO 3D community to get involved and experience the impact one can make on someone’s life and make a difference through 3D printing.”
ROBO 3D has plenty of ideas to encourage their community, such as the inclusion of an e-NABLE prosthetic limb 3D print kit with every printer. Kits will include the necessary 3D files, hardware and instructions for printing and assembling a prosthetic device, as well as “Get Involved” information with instructions for how to send it to a child in need. That’s undoubtedly welcome news for e-NABLE, who, despite their ever-growing network of dedicated makers and designers, still find themselves swamped with requests from people in need of prosthetic limbs.
Below, you can see a video testimonial from e-NABLE volunteer and ROBO 3D distributor Aaron Brown, who describes how his own 3D printing journey began with a ROBO 3D printer and experimentation with 3D printing prosthetics. Discuss further in the 3D Printed Hands forum over at 3DPB.com.