e-NABLE Volunteers Set Sights on Full-Scale Project for 3D Printing Prostheses in Haiti

Formnext Germany

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MakerBot 3D printer producing a prosthetic hand

We’ve reported on the inspired and heroic worldwide feats of the volunteer-driven e-NABLE a multitude of times as they 3D printed over 700 prosthetic hands last year alone. Not surprisingly, the organization has been the recipient of numerous awards, and e-NABLE has grown in size from just several hundred volunteers to over several thousand. They are responsible for a strong focus on helping children in need, with the creation of incredible and innovative 3D designs for their 3D printed prosthetics. And now, e-NABLE has their sights set on making Haiti their next mission, and volunteers have already made considerable headway.

While we often report on plans and end results regarding e-NABLE, it’s important to point out that the big picture for their programs is not something that comes together overnight. An enormous amount of volunteer effort, planning, coordinating, and financial responsibility and strategizing goes into each project, demonstrated by their Haiti pilot program, which they have only tested so far, as they wait to see if they will receive grant money, and begin lining up backup plans.

e-NABLE’s pilot project for Haiti was conceived during the summer of 2014 as part of a broader plan to take their services to developing countries in need. Hoping for a grant from The Genesis Generation Challenge, backed by former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, an extremely diverse team of volunteers consisting of “a writer, a bio-engineering student, a young research scientist, two beginning bankers and an engineer without borders, of different generations, backgrounds and even continents” came together to form the all-volunteer e-NABLE Haiti Pilot Project team. Banking on winning the grant in question, the team became entirely committed not only to formulating an extensive plan, but also made a preliminary mission to Haiti, sending two members of their team.

cropped-sliderheahandTheir overall plan is to provide all that e-NABLE is so famous for in terms of expertise, 3D printed devices, and their “community-building approach.” A big step for the group was in meeting Dr. Albert Chi last fall at Johns Hopkins University. They received invaluable help and guidance from Dr. Chi, who had not only had firsthand experience in traveling to complete medical missions in Haiti, but he also had a number of Haitian contacts and was able to set the group up with colleagues at the Hospital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) clinic in Deschapelles.

With an October deadline for submitting their plan to the board for the grant, this group of volunteers was diligent in the planning process, which was based roughly on e-NABLE’s highly acclaimed Baltimore ‘Hand-a-thon’ project where volunteers 3D printed hand parts in a range of sizes which were then assembled in workshop environments. With that in mind, they set to work:

  • Planning the trip to Haiti
  • Speaking with doctors, engineers, and other volunteers
  • Shaping a comprehensive business plan

With the intent for giving Haiti a true sustainability plan, they would initially provide 3D printed hands made by volunteers, but would teach their Haitian counterparts to learn to produce them on their own, so that once the project was over, they would have left them with an entirely new skill set.

HAS staff learns how to assemble the 3D printed prosthetic hands

HAS staff learns how to assemble the 3D printed prosthetic hands (Haiti)

Volunteers Mohit and Dante traveled to Haiti in December to meet with medical professionals and complete the rounding out of their plan for the e-NABLE program. On their initial trip they did take 20 unassembled raptor hands and one RIT arm as part of their mission.

Once at HAS, they were able to meet with other technicians and really get familiar with the facility, which has the capacity to handle a whopping 350,000 patients, some of whom for one reason or another were not able to receive prosthetics through the hospital. Dante and Mohit were able to jump right in and begin educating staff on how to complete the e-NABLE raptor prosthetics. With traditional resources for making prosthetics, as well as the new technology of 3D printing, it’s hoped that fewer patients will be left in need.

In a stroke of luck, the group of volunteers had also previously met in the US with one of the volunteers from iLab, which has a 3D-printing lab in Haiti. iLab will be working with e-NABLE as a 3D printing workshop to help produce prosthetics to be distributed throughout Haiti.

The program, as well as the technology of 3D printing, was received with great enthusiasm and curiosity — as you could expect — from those who attended the presentation. With doctors and administrators in attendance, there was a variety of astute questions regarding the 3D printed hands in terms of cost, maintenance, and actual performance of the prosthetics. The group was also able to have a discussion regarding needs of the patients and they were surprised to find how many patients really needed entire arms — more so than hands — and they needed to be able to do serious work with these replacement limbs.

Assuming all goes as planned, e-NABLE will also work Hospital Bernard Mevs (HBM), Haiti’s premier trauma and critical care center, with a progressive prosthetics lab.

With the amount of research and enthusiasm behind this group of volunteers, we will be waiting with fingers crossed hoping they do receive their grant, to be announced in February. They are completely optimistic, re-working and refining their plan, staying in touch with their Haitian colleagues, and continuing to develop the plan fully.

This dedicated, inspiring group of volunteers who share incredible commitment to e-NABLE’s mission is composed of the following members:

  • Mohit Chaudhary
  • Dante Varotsis
  • Caitlin McDonnell
  • Elinor Meeks
  • Roland Mokuolu
  • David Langton

The group has a complete plan set for the next phases of the project and just needs the green light and finances to set everything in motion in Haiti, taking 3D printed hands to as many Haitians in need as they possibly can.

Are you familiar with e-NABLE? Discuss your thoughts on their hopes for this pilot project in the e-NABLE 3D Printing Pilot Project for Haiti forum over at 3DPB.com.

Dante and Mohit giving a presentation with the help of their translator, Adriana

Dante and Mohit giving a presentation with the help of their translator, Adriana


Dante, Joel, and Mohit with Haiti’s first Raptor hand

Dante, Joel, and Mohit with Haiti’s first Raptor hand

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