Earlier this month, Dr. Brouwers, together with a friend who lives and works in Africa as a tropical doctor, left the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (commonly known as Den Bosch) in a 1995 Saab for a three-week-long drive to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Once the two doctors arrive, they will be supporting the charitable international Global Minimum organization, and its Innovate Salone program for school children, with their 3D printed prosthetic hands.
Indestructible fishing wire, paired with hinges, will give users of the 3D printed prosthetic hands a way to solidly grip objects, such as bottles, and successfully pick them up.
“Many children have only a wrist or forearm due to an abnormality before or during birth. Or they have lost a hand by war violence,” Dr. Brouwers explained. “The printer makes a complete hand prosthesis in one day with fingers that can move.”
We often see 3D printing used to help the residents of third world countries, like Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, gain better access to proper medical care as the technology can offer local creation of tools and prosthetics to help those impacted by war.
“It is important that developments in technology and innovation are also introduced in the third world,” said Dr. Brouwers. “By transferring our knowledge and the 3D printer, we want to contribute to healthcare. Otherwise, the differences with the prosperous countries will only increase.”
Thanks to an Ultimaker 3 that Dr. Brouwers is bringing with him, valued at €2,500 but donated free of charge by Ultimaker, he is working to lessen the technology gap between the rich and the poor. The donated 3D printer comes with spare parts and the necessary software, which can be replenished quickly from the Netherlands when necessary; Dr. Brouwers has even arranged for a technical help desk, in case users get stuck.
“Technical problems are often easy to remotely remedy, for example via the app,” Dr. Brouwers said. “And if it is very difficult, I can call on a befriended colleague in the Radboud UMC‘s 3D Lab.”
#3Dprinting for 3rd world countries! In 3 weeks, we’ll drive with our #Saab95 to Siërra Leone to expand an innovation lab for children: @InnovateSalone and help handicapped children with 3Dprinted prosthesis. Stay tuned for more updates! @ETZnl @radboudumc @Ultimaker @Til_Surg pic.twitter.com/qBpoFsU1Q9
— Lars Brouwers (@Brouwers_3D) December 18, 2017
Dr. Brouwers, who received a Technical Innovation Award earlier this year for his 3D printing-related scientific study, believes that virtual reality and 3D printing technology will be of great value to future medical specialists. He will continue his doctoral research once he returns from Sierra Leone, and begins his training back home in the Netherlands as a surgeon in Nijmegen next month.
“I want to show that 3D printing works cost-effectively compared to normal care. I have been working on that for two years,” Dr. Brouwers said.
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