3D printing can be used to benefit the world in many ways, and thousands of caring people have dedicated their time and energy towards working with the technology to help others or the planet, whether it’s 3D printing prosthetics or coming up with ways to recycle plastic into 3D printer filament. Both of those are wonderful things do so, so why not combine them into one project? That’s what an organization called Re:Purpose for Good is doing by creating 3D printed, robotic prosthetic devices out of recycled plastic and e-waste.

The Re:Purpose for Good team includes a robotics engineer, a sustainability specialist, a biomedical engineer and an industrial designer. They recently concluded a successful campaign on crowdfunding platform Chuffed, raising more than AUD$10,000 to get their project off the ground. Robotics and prosthetics engineer Gerardo Montoya had been working on 3D printing prosthetics for children in Mexico, and that idea merged with the desire to do something about the eight million tons of plastic entering the oceans.

There are many projects out there dedicated to 3D printing prosthetic hands and arms, but fewer that include legs and feet as well. The Re:Purpose project 3D prints both hands and feet, custom-made for the user.

“There’s a ‘one size fits all’ design and this makes it really difficult to customise prosthetics to a user,” said a member of the project team. “Obviously, everyone is different and their needs are different, so usually more invasive surgery is required to make the prosthetics fit the person, instead of customising for their specific needs. Our designs are comfortable and, most importantly custom built for a fraction of the cost.”

Re:Purpose for Good uses Precious Plastic machines to shred plastic waste into pellets, and extrude the pellets into filament. Then, once the prosthetic device has been designed according to the needs of the recipient, it’s 3D printed from the recycled filament. Currently, the team is working on a hand for a boy who was born without one, a leg for someone who lost one to cancer, and a finger for a woman who lost one in the military.

“We also use e-waste, like old smartphones that have all the circuitry and microprocessors we need that enable us to use intuitive design models so that a user with a prosthetic hand, for example, can grasp objects from the first fitting,” said the team member.

There’s actually a third goal with the project: education. Re:Purpose for Good plans to teach their prosthetic-making process to children as part of their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) curriculum, allowing them to learn 3D printing skills as well as a way to help people in need. It’s Re:Purpose’s goal to spread their project as widely as possible, and they’re making it open source as a way to get more people involved.

In Australia, where Re:Purpose for Good is based, one in 1,000 people is missing one or more limbs, which equates to more than 20,000 people. Re:Purpose for Good wants to reach as many of those people as they can, while doing something to mitigate the vast amounts of plastic being dumped into the ocean at the same time. The project is also designed to be open source, allowing for interested parties around the world to take on this work.

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

[Source: Huffington Post Australia / Images: Re:Purpose for Good]

 

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