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Hailey Dawson’s Inspiring The 3D Printing Community Through Pitching Baseball Games

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Hailey Dawson

Hailey Dawson is the inspiring seven-year-old with a 3D printed hand. Featured in newscasts, print, and on the web, Hailey’s journey has put a smile on many a face. Hailey is momentarily on a quest to throw out the first pitch at 30 Major League Baseball games this season. Together with Stratasys and UNLV, the Dawson family is teaming with Stratasys and UNLV for the #Journeyto30. During these 30 pitches, Hailey will be specially designed 3D printed robotic hand based on the Flexyhand. Today she will throw her final pitch in the series as the New York Mets take on the Miami Marlins.

3D printed prosthetics is one of the most inspiring and heartwarming things that we’ve been able to do as a 3D printing community. Low cost, accessible and customizable these prosthetics could very well change many people’s lives. We find it really commendable what Hailey has done and applaud her family for this inspirational journey. interviewed Hailey’s mom, Yong Dawson about what this journey has been like. We wanted to know what kind of a difference the hand was making in her life as well.

How often does Hailey actually wear the prosthetic?

Initially, it was for functional use but it became something that gave her confidence as she would garner attention when using it. So basically she uses it when she feels like it. Sometimes she takes it to school and sometimes she doesn’t. It’s also like wearing a glove so it gets hot after a while.

What does it let her do that she was unable to do before? What could be improved about it?  

She’s able to hold things with her right hand. Maybe a better system where it’s not so hot. Hailey says a cooling system in the hand would be great!

What was it like meeting all of these athletes? 

\She loves meeting new people whether they are athletes or not. She sometimes gets shy around athletes that she knows of like Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant. She loves when they dance with her and that happens quite a bit.

The prosthetic itself was based on the flexyhand 2, which was designed and developed by the amazing Steve Wood. Available for download on Stratasys’ Thingiverse site the Flexyhand was groundbreaking by using high strength TPU filaments for many components. Steve, better known as Gyrobot has made several hands and shared them with the e-nable community and everyone that needs a hand. Starting with the Flexyhand the UNLV team adapted and updated it. The various versions of the hand we printed on Stratasys Fortus 250 mc and 400 mc manufacturing systems. There are double coke machine sized 3D printers that are used for industrial part production. Additionally, lower cost systems from Stratasys were used also. Jesse Roitenberg, Education Segment Sales Leader at Stratasys praised the “the unique design includes small cables (for tendons) to enabling gripping and throwing.”

Mohamed B. Trabia Associate Dean for Research, Graduate Studies, and Computing and Professor of Mechanical Engineering Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering University of Nevada, Las Vegas told us that,

How was Hailey’s hand designed?

“We started from an open-source model. We simply thought that we will scale it down to fit her hand. This did not work and we found that we have to do multiple adjustments to fit her hand properly. Additionally, scaling the paths of the cables made them very small with cleaning them from the support materials becoming difficult. As Hailey grew, we kept adding multiple changes to the design.”

What material was Hailey’s hand made of? 

Gauntlet, palm, and fingers are made from ABS. Joints are made of Ninjaflex. The ABS parts are printed solid. We experimented with various infill settings with ninjaflex joints to get the right combination of flexibility and tight fit inside the ABS parts.

Combining flexible materials with rigid ones is always tricky in 3D printing applications. Abrasiveness or weakness in the flexible TPU parts and the hand can destroy itself. The real value in these 3D printed hands is that they’re inexpensive and can be updated and replaced as the wearer grows. They could even be adapted to all manner of activities or looks. By making the hand an interesting “robot” one the wearer really gets control over the narrative of the prosthetic. She feels empowered and interesting, rather than not having a hand she has something special. This uniqueness is key to making this an empowering experience. That’s why I like the elective nature of Hailey’s wearing of it. It seems like a clothing piece or a bike helmet, an empowering tool to be used when needed rather than a crutch.

Arita Mattsoff, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Stratasys said that,

Both UNLV and Stratasys are dedicated to community activity. Stratasys’ Corporate Social Responsibility and Education experts teamed to build a 3D printed, custom-prosthetic for Hailey. As part of the cooperation, Stratasys contributed an FDM-based 3D printer to UNLV to support the Hailey’s Hand project – as well as team up on other socially driven programs.”

Michael Gaisford, Director of Healthcare Solutions at Stratasys:

Stratasys has a number of CSR collaborations who have used our 3D printers in this space, including Limitless and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Because the cost of a traditional prosthetic is so high (10s of thousands of dollars), insurance companies mostly don’t cover them for children. Additionally, off-the-shelf solutions most often deliver a poor fit to the patient, which is why a number of organizations are looking towards 3D printing for lightweight, patient-specific, functional prosthetics and bionics. Stratasys’ FDM solutions are often the 3D printer of choice because of the engineering-grade materials, reliability, and accuracy with capabilities to produce a lightweight, functional prosthetic.”

I do enjoy seeing Stratasys work with long-term partners bringing open source designs to life. This to me feels like that the larger company is really engaging directly with its Thingiverse unit to showcase the breadth of Stratasys capability. It is interesting that Stratasys sees this as a CSR thing, something nice and cuddly to help out. I do love that a firm is promoting and actively engaging with charitable causes. The idea that 3D printing is here to help is dear to my heart as well. At the same time while I do see the CSR potential of this there are in my mind true business opportunities here.

Tens of millions of people worldwide need prosthetic devices. These could easily be made for around $25 to $150 depending on the prosthetic. Currently, these devices are ugly, less functional, mostly unavailable and cost prohibitive for most users. The ability to get a new hand every few months or every year is also a key benefit of 3D printing but also a huge opportunity. Meanwhile in customization to the looks the user wants we have a unique capability to make whatever it is they want. The sizing shaping and design of this thing can also be customized to any desired shape and size to have a perfect ergonomic and mechanical fit. There are over 10 million amputees worldwide and more than this with less than fully functional limbs who could benefit from prosthetics. To me, 3D printed prosthetics is something that we should encourage through charitable initiatives such as e-nable but additionally is also a huge business opportunity that can bring a lot of good to the world at the same time. I’d really like to thank Stratasys, UNLV and the Dawson family for taking the time to answer our questions and for highlighting this initiative in the muggle world because it is just pure magic what we can do with this technology.

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