The world news today is certainly flooded with plenty of darkness, so when the clouds part for the sunshine to peek through, we’re grateful. And we always know something wonderful is on the way when we hear about these two entities together: e-NABLE and Team UnLimbited.
The best news of all, however, went to the lucky child who received the first model of the new arm (parents have requested privacy in terms of personal information or photos). The Alfie Edition is an advanced new 3D printed prosthetic created by Team UnLimbited founders—and e-NABLE Volunteers—Stephen Davies and Drew Murray from the UK. Their specialty is in research and development of new 3D printed prosthetics, as well as studying materials and seeking functional improvements—with all their work being shared with the e-NABLE community. We’ve been greatly inspired following their successes, from learning about a happy little boy in Uganda who recently received a new arm to a four-year-old in Chile who now has a 3D printed Spider-Man prosthetic. Those are just a couple of examples, and thankfully, the list continues to grow substantially.
The latest release by Team UnLimbited represents many hours and months of work, coding, testing, and re-printing, with the final result being the Team UnLimbited 2.0 Arm – Alfie Edition. Stephen and Drew were motivated to begin work on this latest design as they worked with Isabella, a recent recipient of the appropriately named 1.7 Isabella Edition.
This was an experimental design, and eight-year-old Isabella was quite excited to help them as a beta tester. Stephen drove 200 miles to Bristol, UK to deliver the Isabella prosthetic and was able to watch her joy in beginning to use it. She loved the design, the colors, and declared that she would use it to the full extent.
An interesting note here is that Stephen is not only a talent designer and e-NABLE volunteer, but he is also the recipient of one of their arms. He has been able to give back immensely, on a worldwide scale.
“When I first became an approved maker for the e-NABLE Community, I was struck by one thing above all else … which was the number of recipients that were waiting for an arm. By the time I got involved, there were several hand models available, but for children with below elbow deficiencies the choice was stark. I felt inspired by several other designs like the Raptor wing from the students at UW Bothell who were working with Ivan Owen on an elbow driven design and I set about to do something to help,” says Stephen.
“I have been a professional Computer Aided Designer for 23 Years, added to which I too only have one hand and because of this and improvements I helped introduce with other hand models – I felt I was in a unique position to do something about it. Together with e-NABLE Volunteer Drew Murray, I set about designing the UnLimbited arm. The aim was to make an arm that was quick to print, easy to build, required minimal hardware, was lightweight, low cost and functional. After many iterations, countless prints, recipient testing and endless evolution we finally released version 1.7 and open sourced the files. This arm was a great success and has gone on to be used worldwide, helping people from our own UK to Sierra Leone, Hong Kong, Turkey, America, Uganda, Ghana…… The list goes on and on. We’ve taken huge personal pleasure in seeing our arm design making a real difference in people’s lives around the world.”
On delivering the arm to Isabella though, Stephen was aware some changes would have to be made in the future for this design in terms of scaling the devices for children as they grew. He said he was left with a nagging feeling.
“We knew we would eventually have to deal with a difficult problem and It was one that had been attempted by many people and no one had successfully been able to conquer. The problem was our arm could only be scaled up or down proportionally. This was fine for most children between the ages four to seven but around the seven-year mark, children’s proportions alter variably as they grow,” said Stephen.
“As makers ourselves, the greatest frustration was the uncertainty of sizing the devices correctly, calculating the print scale for each individual, and ensuring a good fit. We did everything we could to help, providing sizing charts and instructions but it would always be a ‘Best Fit’ scenario and as recipients’ forearms, hand and biceps all grow and stretch un-proportionally, this made this process almost impossible. Also, from what we had seen ourselves, and from many emails asking for teenage or adult proportioned arms we knew we would have to tackle designing a parametric arm,” explained Stephen.
Since then, many hours in R&D have produced the first fully parametric 3D printed arm. Not only that, but in the continued effort to promote affordable, accessible, 3D printed prosthetics around the world, Drew and Stephen have also released this new model on Thingiverse. And those exploring the design may be amazed as how easy this open-source prosthetic is to produce. All the user has to do is enter their measurements:
- Hand length
- Forearm length
- Bicep circumference
After that, the files are generated and placed in a zip file for downloading. Everything is scaled and ready for print. This is a great opportunity for parents to print out prostheses if their children are in need of one. While many may not have a 3D printer to make one of these at home, it’s easy to find a makerspace, service printing bureau, local library, or school to help. Children using them can become beta testers and offer invaluable feedback to Team UnLimbited.
This whole process is about sharing. e-Nable invites you to share any photos you have of individuals benefiting from this new design. They ask that if you create one of the new Alfie Editions to please share images and tag them with #teamunlimbited @enablethefuture and #enable so that they can also enjoying seeing, and share your work. Do you know anyone who might like to 3D print one of these designs, or are you planning to? Discuss in the 3D Printed Team UnLimbited 2.0. Alfie Prosthetic forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images: e-NABLE]