There is something about the start of the Major League Baseball season in the United States that brings a summertime excitement to the country. It signifies the start of warm weather, gatherings at the ballpark, and the donning of caps and jerseys. The sport, considered America’s pastime, has been part of American history for over a century, bringing traditions to families, allowing parents to bond with their children, and mixing cold beer with peanuts, Cracker Jacks, and hot dogs all season long.
This week, the Major League Baseball season officially kicks off, with teams from all around the United States and Canada playing their first regular season games. Baseball, however, isn’t just played on the professional level. Colleges, high schools, and Little Leagues around the world play the game as well.
Baseball is a sport that, for the most part, requires the use of two fully functional hands and arms. There have been players such as Jim Abbott who have been successful at various levels with just one functional hand. However, cases like these are extremely rare, especially when talking about players who are not pitchers.
Last year, a teacher at Hudson High School in Hudson, Massachusetts, named Ryan Dailey, got some students together to 3D print a prosthetic hand for a middle school girl. While talking with this girl’s parents, the topic of sports and most specifically softball came up. Softball, for those of you who are unaware, is virtually the same sport at baseball, except with a bigger ball, slightly modified bat, and a smaller playing field. This girl desired to have a device made for her that would allow her to swing a softball bat, even though she was missing one of her hands.
“I told her we would try to design something for her,” Dailey explains to 3DPrint.com. “This year I assembled a group of students and we have been working since the fall on designing a device that we could 3D print that would allow the user to take a full swing while batting. We met once a week from the beginning of January, and each week we tried to get a little further. First we focused on basic functions, then closure system, then aesthetics and finally how to blend it with any existing designs. As we pushed along, the students involved modified things and made changes and edits.”
The students then modeled the final design in CAD, and Dailey blended the design into the existing model of the prosthetic hand that he had created for this girl last year. This helped ensure it would fit properly. The team also used aspects of the “Raptor Wing” design — the design portion that goes from the hand clamping part to the elbow and up to the cuff of the arm — that was created by students under Ivan Owen at the University of WA Bothell. Then, using a MakerBot Replicator 2X 3D printer, the group 3D printed the various pieces, tested them out, and reprinted any pieces that needed to be redesigned for one reason or another.
The device really looks unlike anything we have seen before. It includes 8-9 different 3D printed parts, depending on the extension pieces needed for the forearm. It also features some non-3D-printed parts such as springs, bolts, and screws.
“Right now we have designed something for the top hand in a baseball swing. That hand releases from the swing as the bat passes through the strike zone and the bottom hand continues through the remainder of the swing,” Dailey tells us. “We are beginning the talks about how to adapt this to the bottom hand as well. “
So far the device appears to work quite well. If successful this could mean more kids with missing hands and fingers could take part in baseball in the future.
Dailey has been a teacher for 12 years. He’s been teaching CAD design for 9 years, and design engineering for the past 5. He also has been coaching high school sports for that past 16 years, so the design and fabrication of a sport-based prosthetic hand came quite naturally to him, especially after 3D printing the original e-NABLE prosthetic hand last year.
“The main thing this year was getting students involved, which has made it a really fun process,” says Dailey. “We use Creo Parametric and Autodesk Inventor for CAD software. As far as this project goes, creating the mechanism of opening and closing was really interesting and the discussions that took place as we worked through things was great as well.”
This is just one more fantastic example of why more schools should be implementing 3D technology into the classroom environment. Not only do students learn about a rising technology, but they can also make a difference in other people’s lives as well. What do you think about this incredible 3D printed baseball bat swinging hand? Discuss in the 3D Baseball Swinging Hand forum thread on 3DPB.com.
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