[Image provided by Stratasys]

On Saturday, Game 4 of the World Series will take place. Currently, the series is tied 1-1 between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s been quite a series so far. I admittedly haven’t been watching any of the games since my beloved Cleveland Indians were knocked out in the first round, and I’m still bitter, but I may tune in to Game 4 on Saturday just to see the first pitch get thrown out. Doing the honors will be seven-year-old Hailey Dawson, who is living her dream as well as the dream of many other kids (and adults).

Hailey was born with Poland syndrome, a rare birth defect that resulted in her being born without the three middle fingers on her right hand. Doctors told her mother, Yong Dawson, that Hailey could eventually be fitted with a custom prosthetic, but such prosthetics can cost as much as $25,000, and Hailey would have to wait until she stopped growing. So Dawson did some further research on alternatives, and discovered 3D printed prosthetic hands online. When Hailey was four years old, she had her first prosthetic 3D printed and fitted, courtesy of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

UNLV has been working with the Dawsons ever since, and in 2015 Hailey was throwing out the first pitch at a UNLV Rebels baseball game. That led to her throwing out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles/Oakland Athletics game at Baltimore’s Camden yards, and Hailey developed a new goal – to throw out the first pitch in every Major League Baseball stadium. So far she has two checked off her list, and she’ll be getting her third – and first postseason appearance – at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Saturday.

[Image: Joel Angel Juarez/Las Vegas Review-Journal]

“I want to bring awareness to this solution and help other children like Hailey, who have Poland syndrome,” said Yong Dawson. “I want people to know they can get help from someone who understands 3D printing. A hand can be built for under $2,000, and maybe as cheaply as $200. It’s the perfect solution for children, who could out-grow several prosthetic hands before they stop growing. There are 3D printing companies out there who can build a hand for you, or a local school’s engineering program may be willing to help.”

The UNLV team has worked with Hailey to create customized hands for different baseball games. The first model they used was the Robohand, but they have since switched to the Flexy Hand 2 design from e-NABLE. The team is working on further improving the design, too.

“The current hand design is good, but we’re looking at ways to improve it. One student is designing a more optimal, more functional thumb with improved dexterity and gripping power. Another student is working on a way to make the individual fingers flex more independently. And a third student is researching ways the device could be motorized,” said Dr. Brendan O’Toole, Chair of UNLV’s Mechanical Engineering Department.

“Working on Hailey’s 3D printed hand has been a great learning experience for our students. And our Stratasys 3D Printer is a critical tool to print these prosthetics. All of the various hand parts that we make have small internal channels. We run small diameter cables or ‘tendons’ through the channels to actuate the finger gripping action. The Stratasys 3D Printer is able to reliably print small intricate internal channels that allow us to assemble the hand quickly after printing.”

[Image: Joel Angel Juarez/Las Vegas Review-Journal]

UNLV has been using Stratasys 3D printers for over a decade. They use a Fortus 250mc for Hailey’s prosthetics, and also have a Fortus 400mc in their research lab.

“It is an honor for our technology to be a part of an amazingly uplifting story,” Jesse Roitenberg, Education Segment Sales Leader at Stratasys, told 3DPrint.com.

“It just shows the importance of educational institutions using the latest technologies and the intelligence of students and faculty to address real world problems. There is no better way to gain experience.”

Hailey’s goal may be a big one, but it’s within reach – she currently has a standing invitation from every one of the 30 Major Leave Baseball teams to come throw out a pitch before a game. You can follow the progress on Twitter, where her mom is documenting Hailey’s MLB journey.

[Image: Joel Angel Juarez/Las Vegas Review-Journal]

 Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images via Las Vegas Review-Journal]

 

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