There’s ongoing talk about industry being transformed by 3D printing. Manufacturing is in the middle of the next revolution. We’re going to build luxurious 3D printed eco-communities on the water, literally, or maybe live on the moon as 3D printed robots do all the construction. We’ll rely on 3D printed pills, a melee of new 3D printed medical devices, and maybe even 3D printed eyes with WiFi connections.
There’s a lot to look forward to as we continue to move into times ruled by futuristic design and technology, but one area of medicine is indeed already thriving anew today with 3D printing, and that’s the world of prosthetics. People are already walking, running, lifting, and grasping with futuristic, customized, and highly affordable 3D printed replacement limbs. Here’s an utterly remarkable scene where 3D printing has planted itself in the reality of today, thanks to e-NABLE, a very special organization that gives us the true definition of teamwork.
It would be safe to say that we all look forward to following the news of e-NABLE from their inspiring trips taking their 3D printed prosthetics programs to other countries like Haiti to their events and partnerships with superheroes, live appearances included. e-NABLE is such a dynamic company, we could probably devote a small publication entirely to their inspirational stories.
“e-NABLE is an online global community of volunteers who are using 3D printers and 3D design software to make prosthetics for children and adults who are missing fingers, hands, and wrists–and we are giving them away for free,” says Jon Schull, founder of e-NABLE.
While headlines abound regarding the children and individuals who have had their lives changed due to the 3D printed prosthetics provided by e-NABLE and its worldwide force of volunteers, there has been interesting news as they lay the foundation for solidifying their company’s position as well, so that they can continue and expand.
The latest from e-NABLE is that they’ve joined the Autodesk Foundation, which will be supporting their efforts and their movement by donating copies of their Inventor software (3D CAD software for mechanical design), which will assist e-NABLE in developing a whole new ‘generation’ of their 3D printed prosthetics.
Joining the foundation puts e-NABLE in good company with other organizations and designers who are using their unique concept and talents to do good and make positive changes in the world. The Autodesk Foundation refers to these members as “impact designers.” The goal of the foundation is to invest in those who are able not only to conceptualize but also to deliver and execute plans and design solutions that have real-world uses and address what they refer to as “the most epic challenges of our time.”
While there are, of course, nearly an infinite amount of issues to tackle worldwide, e-NABLE remains engaged in providing customized 3D printed prosthetics for children because they are able to do so at a fraction of the price that traditional–and often ill-fitting–prosthetics would.
“One of the reasons 3D printing is so well-suited to this problem is that no two cases are exactly the same. Some kids are missing all their fingers, some are missing even the palm or the wrist,” says Andreas Bastian, e-NABLE designer and Autodesk 3D printing research scientist. “The reason why we can produce these devices for incredibly low costs, well under a hundred dollars, is that these devices are entirely body-driven, purely mechanical so there are no motors, no sensors, no heavy batteries–so it’s a very lightweight, very simple device.”
They want to dispel the notion that getting one of their prosthetics is an unreachable dream, and the Autodesk Foundation is on board with helping e-NABLE to achieve that through further action, using even greater tools.
With a recent Google grant that came through in late May, to the tune of $600,000, e-NABLE will be also able to work on making and giving out many more 3D printed prosthetic hands, as well as focusing on their commitment to programs and tools which show volunteers and medical professionals how to make the prosthetics on their own. This is where their Hand-o-matic tool comes into play for those with partial hands, and could take the e-NABLE programs to an entirely new level as users can access their online platform to order customized prosthetics and then arrange to have them conveniently 3D printed.
Bastian points out that just one hour of CAD design can make a big difference in how one child is able to have a new lease on life with a customized, free 3D printed prosthetic.
“These hands don’t even pretend to look like normal hands–they’re very different,” said Schull. “These things look like something Iron Man or a superhero would have and the kids love them for that reason.”
It’s pretty mind-blowing to see what progress can spring from something like a small project between two people developing a prosthetic hand for a child in South Africa. From that beginning sprung a community of thousands who have the reward of making many hundreds of individual’s lives so much better.
Discuss your thoughts on the latest from e-NABLE in the e-NABLE Joins Autodesk Foundation forum thread over at 3DPB.com.