If there is one sub-category within the 3D printing space that we have covered the most over the past year and a half, it would probably be the 3D printing of prosthetic hands and arms. While there have been hundreds of heart warming stories in the past two years about children and adults who have received custom-made 3D printed prosthetic arms from volunteers around the world, the majority of these volunteers stem from an organization called e-NABLE. e-NABLE, now with over 5,200 members worldwide, focuses on the design and fabrication of 3D printed prosthetic arms and legs. Members, who work strictly on a volunteer basis, share their design files, ideas and assembly instructions with each other, leading to the 3D printing of what has been thousands of super affordable prosthetic devices in just a couple years.
Typically it is extremely difficult for children to get fitted for traditional prosthetic hands and arms. With the continual bone growth seen in childhood and adolescence development, children typically need to be refit for a prosthesis every two years or so. This can get extremely expensive, oftentimes leaving children with upper limb differences without two working hands for much of their early life.
Today, e-NABLE has announced probably their most exciting news yet. They have been awarded a grant from Google.org in the amount of $600,000 as part of the $20 million Google Impact Challenge which focuses solely on disabilities.
“We created the e-NABLE Community Foundation to support the fast growing community of volunteers now known around the world as ‘eNABLE’,” explained Foundation President Jon Schull. “Google.org’s support will allow us to improve and to prove our products and our processes.”
This is quite significant, as the funding should go a long way in allowing e-NABLE to further develop their technology, as well get their 3D printed hands and arms out to more children and adults in need. As for exactly what the funding will be used for, details have not yet been made available, but the organization says that they will focus the funds on “accelerating research and development through strategic partnerships”, global design challenges, and development of self-service software that will allow beginners to more easily create custom 3D printed prostheses themselves.
“We think the e-NABLE community’s products and practices are a potential model for other ventures that can inspire digital humanitarians to use emerging technologies to develop innovative solutions for underserved populations,” explained Schull. “Google.org has challenged us to test that idea, and given us the resources to do it, even as we continue to serve volunteers and recipients.”
Representatives from e-NABLE hope that this grant will entice an entirely new wave of volunteers to join this inspirational movement, so they are currently in the process of “ramping up their efforts” to train volunteers as well as recruit new individuals and find more recipients in need.
“Because we now have unprecedented access to knowledge, to technology, and to fellow problem-solvers, we have new options for developing, sharing, and disseminating new solutions to challenging intractable problems,” said e-NABLE Community Foundation Director Ivan Owen. “The e-NABLE community has thrived by using communications and collaboration tools that are breathtakingly powerful, rapidly evolving and virtually free. With Google.org’s direct support, we can do even more.”
Surely this grant will not only provide e-NABLE with much needed resources, but also provide them with additional publicity, now that they are supported by internet giant Google. At the same time though, e-NABLE is still in need of additional donations in order to continue their growth and keep organized while they continue to expand.
What do you think about this incredible news? How quickly do you expect to see e-NABLE grow now that they have working capital and the support of a company with the notoriety of Google? Discuss in the Google Awards e-NABLE with Huge Grant Forum thread on 3DPB.com. Be sure to check out the recently updated and very helpful e-NABLE FAQ for more information on the organization.