3-D printers are now capable of producing custom-made prosthetics for a few hundred dollars, a far cry from the tens of thousands the prosthetics it used to cost. A new global initiative that connects people who have 3-D printers to children who need artificial limbs is changing how the technology is used. CCTV America’s Ginger Vaughn reported this story from Houston.
3-D printing paves way for prosthetics innovation3-D printers are now capable of producing custom-made prosthetics for a few hundred dollars, a far cry from the tens of thousands the prosthetics it used to cost. A new global initiative that connects people who have 3-D printers to children who need artificial limbs is changing how the technology is used. CCTV America's Ginger Vaughn reported this story from Houston.
Six-year-old Keith Harris is good at building things, including his new prosthetic hand made from 3-D printer parts. It is customized to look like the hand of his favorite comic book character.
“My favorite thing about it is that I made it. Not the whole thing… I made some of the fingers, some of the strings,” Harris said.
Harris, who was born with a condition in which his fingers were not fully developed, is among thousands of children around the world in need of a prosthetic hand. 3-D printing is making it a possibility.
“Something like this that you can custom print for each individual child, they wear it out,” Gloria Gogola, a physician at Shriner’s Hospital for Children said. “No problem, print another one, they outgrow it. Great, we’ll print another one, they change their favorite color, we’ll print another one.”
3-D printers have come a long way since they first were used to make plastic toys. It takes about 10 hours to print all the parts for a hand and another two hours for assembly.
The technology has made artificial digits and limbs affordable for kids such as Keith. Prosthetics can cost thousands of dollars. A myoelectric limb, controlled by electrical signals from a patient’s muscles, can cost as much as $100,000. Engineers can make 3-D printer limbs for around $50.
A network called E-nable started this initiative with the help of a global volunteer community that designs and prints prosthetic hands for children. A website allows these children to drop a pin on a Google map anywhere in the world and connect with people who have 3-D printers who want to help — such as Marvel Universe Live, an entertainment production company, and bio-engineering students at Rice University. Together, they are helping children create custom-designed limbs.
“If there is a kid in need, a parent can measure the hand design they want, make measurements, put them into the computer, the computer, the hand-o-matic software will generate the 3-D files that will fit that hand,” Jordan Miller of Rice University said. “You can download those files, you can email them to someone to print for you, you can print them out yourself.”
Keith’s mom, Kim, said improving technology means she can afford her son’s first prosthetic.
“He isn’t eligible for a prosthetic device; they’re around $42,000. He’s six, he’s growing, That’s not really an option for him,” Kim Harris said. “So great for his confidence, having an upper limb difference. Some of the challenges you face with that — the constant questions with what happened to your hand — and the constant staring.”
Keith said he doesn’t mind all the staring now. He welcomes the attention.