Artists see the world differently than most people; that’s a given. Where most people would look up at the night sky and just see black and some pinpoint stars, Vincent van Gogh saw swirls and an interplay of colors that eventually immortalized him; I can’t say just what Picasso saw when he looked at the world, but seeing the reflections of it through his brush strokes certainly makes quite an impression. Today’s artists have different media to work with, and approach both materials and the world with their own unique viewpoints.
London-based artist, illustrator, and “occasional technology hacker” Maxine Green used her artistic design sensibilities — and previous medical study — to come up with her own solution to a real life problem. Several months ago, Green walked into the back of a chair and broke her hand (I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s ever sustained injury that way). She spent a week with her hand in a plaster cast, but then was advised that continuing to keep the injury immobilized could cause it to heal improperly, and was provided with a wrist support to continue the healing process. This device was, Green said, “Probably quite well designed if I had broken my wrist, but not well suited to the task of supporting and protecting the delicate bone re-growing at the side of my hand.”
So she did what any of us would do: she looked around for another solution. However, her solution wasn’t exactly what I might have come up with. Her eye hit upon her 3Doodler, which she’d backed in its Kickstarter campaign and had received late last year but hadn’t really found a use for… until now. What had initially just “seemed like a fun toy,” but without any real use, quickly became Green’s saving grace.
“Using my 3Doodler I designed and built a custom ABS plastic exoskeleton to support and protect my hand while it healed,” said Green. “Inspired by natural structures (beehives, wood fibres, internal bone structures, a crab’s shell… etc.), my final design allowed my hand almost full range of movement, including being able to hold things, while protecting it from accidental knocks and the sorts of movement that might re-break the bone. Unlike both the plaster and my medical wrist support, it was also washable, colourful, flexible, and easy to put on and take off one-handed, using a simple hook and loop closure mechanism that was also ‘doodled’ in ABS plastic.”
We’ve seen hummingbirds, vases, frames, and monsters come out of 3Doodlers, but as far as I know this is the first medical device sprung from it. The use of the 3Doodler in this way is a truly clever “life hack,” but I feel like there should be a disclaimer attached that at-home medical care can be a risky endeavor, don’t try this at home, etc. Keep in mind Maxine Green does also have a background in medical study, so she had a definite idea how best to go about this project.
Back to the exciting parts, though, the nature-inspired design really worked well for this particular application because its breathable structure allowed for the most natural positioning and the flexible ABS material kept the healing bone stable but not immobile, letting it mend well.
And Green’s injury? Mostly healed! “My hand is now basically back to normal,” she said, “and having my exoskeleton made that healing process so very much easier. So I just wanted to say thanks [to 3Doodler] for helping me literally ‘hack’ my own body back to health (because ‘broken’ is just an opportunity for improvement, right?).”
3D printing seems to have all kinds of uses. With innovation the known brainchild of necessity, products like the 3Doodler will keep finding applications in seemingly unanticipated areas. What are your thoughts on Green’s “exoskeleton” for her healing hand? Have you used your 3Doodler in some practical way? Let us know what you think in the 3Doodler Exoskeleton forum thread at 3DPB.com!