E-Nable’s 3D-Printed Prostheses for Kids
Innovator: Andreas Bastian
Technical director of Los Gatos (Calif.) nonprofit E-Nable Community Foundation and 3D-printing researcher at Autodesk
Form and function
E-Nable designs 3D-printed prostheses for children older than 3 and shares their blueprints so they can be made for as little as $30. This way, the prostheses can be easily replaced as the kids outgrow them.
Each year, 32,500 U.S. kids undergo amputations, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1,500 are born with “upper limb reductions.”
Bastian, formerly head of R&D at MakerBot, began developing E-Nable’s hands in 2013.
In May, Google donated $600,000 to support E-Nable’s R&D and production.
Made from $8 to $15 worth of nontoxic, waterproof 3D-printer plastic and five screws, the prosthetic hands connect to a child’s active muscles via elastic straps.
E-Nable’s open source 3D blueprints are available through Thingiverse, Youmagine and, in some cases, Google Drive.
An Iron Man-branded prosthetic forearm and hand developed by Limbitless Solutions costs about $300 to build.
This year, E-Nable has made more than 270 hands and seen other companies use its specs to fill orders as large as 2,000, Bastian says. Next he’s working on elbows and shoulders. “It has changed everything,” says Robert Graboyes, senior research fellow in health-care economics at George Mason University. “Children were not a viable audience as recently as two or three years ago, because they would outgrow costlier prosthetics too quickly.”
(Updated "Source" blurb to clarify blueprint availability)