How open source designs and 3D-printing make prosthetics more accessible

Vice France has a great new article about the ways that 3D printing is disrupting the prosthetic limb industry. While a standard upper-body prosthetic can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $120,000, the e-NABLE online community is essentially hacking their way to accessibility through open-source design and 3D-printing. Here's how e-Nable describes itself:

e-NABLE is an online global community of "Digital Humanitarian" volunteers from all over the world who are using their 3D printers to make free and low-cost prosthetic upper limb devices for children and adults in need. The open-source designs created by e-NABLE Volunteers help those who were born missing their fingers and hands or who have lost them due to war, natural disaster, illness or accidents.

There are approximately 20,000 e-NABLE volunteers in over 100 countries who have delivered free hands and arms to an estimated 8,000 recipients through collaboration and open-source design to help those in underserved communities who have little to no access to medical care. Our volunteers are working hard to "Give the World a Helping Hand" and would love to have you join us!

And here's what Vice has to say about them:

After learning about 3D printing at work in 2014, IT consultant Thierry Quidam stumbled upon e-NABLE, a US-based open-source community that creates and shares 3D-printable prosthetics designs. He bought his own printer and founded e-NABLE's French chapter a few months later.

Today, e-NABLE France connects individuals who need prosthetics – mostly children – with people who can make them. Their "Unlimbited" arm uses wire or dental elastic bands to replicate tendons, which help users catch a ball or ride a bike. "Each prosthetic is tailor-made and adapted to the user's body," Quidam said. Thanks to 3D printing, they can also personalise the prosthetics with prints, colours and themes chosen by the customer.

These superficial details might seem less important than functionality—but in fact, aesthetics can help restore confidence in people dealing with limb loss, especially children.

3D Printing Is Helping Amputees Make Their Own Prosthetics [Sébastien Wesolowski / Vice]

Image: Public Domain via NeedPix