wilEvery day, we see organizations in the 3D printing field team up to do amazing things, but one of my favorite is the partnership between the Open BioMedical Initiative (OBM Initiative) and Crowd4Africa. Based in Italy, the OBM Initiative was developed for the purpose of making open-source, 3D printed biomedical technology, including prosthetics, available to anyone. Like e-NABLE, the organization develops and shares 3D printable files online to be accessed, printed and augmented by the global community. Devices created by the organization include a neonatal incubator and a couple of prosthetic hands that respond to electromechanical signals.

One of those prosthetic hands, dubbed WIL (WIred Limb), has a significant advantage over other prosthetics – not because of its advanced technology or construction, but because it has been given the literal blessing of the Pope himself. The device, developed by designer Vito Losavio, includes a series of rods and a drive managed by wrist movement, and is about to head to hospitals in Africa. The OBM Initiative recently partnered with Crowd4Africa, an organization made up of  15 students from the Rome-based Jesuits Massimiliano Massimo Institute. The students, aged 15-17, designed and built a “mini factory” capable of 3D printing prosthetics and spare parts using recycled plastic.

children2Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, the students were able to build 60 of the printers to deliver to hospitals and other medical/aid organizations in Africa, along with several WIL prosthetics thanks to Crowd4Africa’s partnership with the OBM Initiative. At a recent meeting, the two organizations also teamed up to teach local children about 3D printing.

“It has been an exciting event where we met families and their children showing them how 3D printing can be used to realize useful and accessible projects such as prostheses, that were mounted directly by the children,” Valentino Megale, Communication and Network Area Director for the OBM Initiative, told us.

The pinnacle for Crowd4Africa came when the students were given the opportunity to meet with Pope Francis and present their work to him. They brought two of their printers, set to be delivered to hospitals in Uganda and the Congo, along with several 3D printed hands. The Pope, who is perhaps the most technologically savvy Pope in history, expressed his appreciation for the students’ project, then blessed the printers and prosthetics.

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Pope Francis, who has over nine million followers on Twitter, has spoken extensively about technology, calling the Internet a “gift from God” and posing for selfies with the public. While he’s also cautioned about the dangers of technology – particularly the Internet and its potential to divide and isolate – he seems to have nothing but admiration for 3D printing, especially after seeing how a group of young people are using it to affect positive change across the world.

Also, he’s been 3D printed himself. While there hasn’t been any word on whether he knows about his 3D printed counterpart, I suspect he’d be pleased. Meanwhile, the students of Crowd4Africa and the designers and engineers of the OBM Initiative have been given an incredible honor, which can only buoy their amazing work in the future. Below is a quick video about the OBM Initiative and their work. Discuss this new partnership in the OBM Initiative & Crowd4Africa 3D Printed Prosthetics forum over at 3DPB.com.

 

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