Superheroes Meet the 3D Printer Prosthetic Hand

By Shlomo Maital    

  Cyborg Beast

   A year ago, I blogged about Daniel Omar, South Sudan,  and his 3D prosthetic arm, created by an American startup called Not Impossible Labs, founded by Mike Ebeling. Ebeling found a way to create inexpensive functional prosthetic arms for Sudanese children badly wounded in the Sudanese civil war, by using 3D printers and teaching locals how to use them to ‘print’ arms. 

   Today, the New York Times,  “Making the Hand of a Super Hero”, by Jacqueline Mroz,  reports that another online volunteer group, E-nable, founded by Dr. Jon Schull, “matches [American] children in need of prosthetic hands and fingers with volunteers able to make them on 3-D printers.”  Designs are downloaded onto the machines at no charge.   Charity indeed begins at home.  These prosthetic limbs cost as little as $20 to $30, a fraction of the cost of conventional prosthetics, and they work just as well. 

    And the neatest part?  The limbs are designed to look like, say, limbs from Transformers or Cyborg superheroes.  The photo shows Cyborg Beast, a prosthetic hand that could well be one used by superhero Steve Austin, the bionic man.  Rather than try to hide or disguise them, they are in bright fluorescent colors and scream, ‘hey look at me!  I’m cool!’.     The prosthetic hands say,  I’m not disabled, I’m actually, well, kind of a superhero.  And “transformer” is the right word – the printed hands transform a disability into a superhero cool device.   

     Some of the statistics that demonstrate need are shocking.  Some 9,000 American kids receive amputations yearly just as a result of lawn mower accidents alone, and one in 1,000 infants is born with missing fingers. 

      We’re still waiting for 3D printing to change our lives. Meanwhile, good people have discovered a wonderful use for them.   As always, the best ideas are always the simplest.