When Cornelius Quiring was three years old, he went out with his father to help his uncles harvest the season’s cotton. While he was standing on the outside deck of the harvester, it hit a hidden tree stump causing the machine to tip over and land square on the child. This accident resulted in one nerve being completely torn from his spine and three others being overstretched. This has left the young boy with no right pec, lat, or tricep muscle and therefore very limited use of his right hand. The greater struggle for him has been to create a way in which his disability is simply an aspect of his being rather than an insurmountable obstacle.
As a first step to overcoming this loss of motion, he realized that he had to begin by understanding truly and honestly what doing this would mean. Rather than engaging in the project as a way to leave behind the results of this accidental damage, his first step was to learn to own it. He started by exploring himself and sharing these meditations on the web.
“So I’ve decided rather than trying to create a brand to hide behind or sell products I don’t believe in, I’m going to focus on becoming a better me,” he explained. “I am going to work with what I have. It’s not about regretting it happened but what I’m going to do about it. It’s not about making my hand normal again but accepting it and creating around it. I strongly believe in the power of design. I went to school thinking design means to make things pretty but realized design is really about making things better. Accidents make you rethink your approach and can be made beautiful in a new way just don’t try to return to how it was. Essentially, keep moving forward.”
His greatest desire in the creation of an assistive device is that it would cause people to change the questions they asked him. His hope was that they would begin from a place of enthusiastic interest rather than one of sympathetic distress.
He is documenting his journey in his Hand Project.
Quiring’s first efforts were to use some form of elastic material that would pull his fingers back into the open position. He turned to Open Prosthetics as a valuable resource and set about creating. However, his first real success didn’t come until he realized that his approach had been flawed. Rather than thinking about ways to pull his fingers back, he began thinking about the joints themselves as pivot points to be manipulated and instead of working with elastic he found himself roaming the aisles of hardware stores.
A real breakthrough occurred in April of 2014 when he had a 3D scan made of his hand that allowed him to use the computer to design and build for it. Working back and forth between digital models, pen and paper drawings, and 3D printed prototypes, Quiring began to develop a type of exoskeleton. He also began to develop a network of individuals with a variety of resources relating to different parts of this project. One person who reached out to him was Dr. Jacqueline Herbert from the University of Alberta. Through her, he learned a great deal about prosthetic devices currently available that had been designed to aid those whose motion has been limited by a stroke or brain injury. As Quiring was quick to note: it’s not pretty.
“This product confirmed my belief that there is virtually no beauty in the world of healthcare…but I will buy one so that I can reverse engineer it. Why reinvent the wheel, you know?” Quiring said.
Driven by a continual need to create and experiment, even when he found himself without direction, Quiring continued to produce ideas, some ridiculous and some sublime. He began to explore the world of cosplay as a location for inspiration and expertise:
“This is a world dedicated to making ‘modifications’ and makes complete sense for my project. But then this wouldn’t be a journey if I had through of it right away, right”
The best things come to those who wait…but not idly. The effort to create the ideal assistive device had led Quiring down a wide number of avenues and had begun to generate interest from a variety of sectors, not least among them the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which picked up the story as a piece of human interest news.
Among those who saw the piece was Hargurdeep “Deep” Singh, a student at Sheridan College studying mechanical engineering. The timing was perfect as the 3D printing challenge I AM 3D was running and Deep was interested in collaborating on the assistive device for the competition.
The competition results will be announced in August of 2016 but Quiring isn’t sitting around idly; he continues to reach out to others who have similar conditions and to explore the possibilities already existing and modifications that would improve them. Having access to 3D modeling plus a high-quality scan of his hand allows him to quickly build and prototype models for testing and refinement.
He continues to blog about his process and progress and has shared photos with 3DPrint.com of his latest iteration as continues to work to blend function with aesthetics.
“I am designing an assistive glove to compensate for the lost function of my right hand,” he said. “More than restoring the use of my right hand, it needs to be beautiful. It must be fashionable and spark conversation about what it is rather than what happened.”
Are you familiar with similar devices? Tell us your thoughts in the 3D Printed Hand Assist Device forum thread over at 3DPB.com.