The global e-Nable community of humanitians works to create prosthetic hands with 3D-printers for those in need.
The e-NABLE community is what happens when we use technology for good.
A mechanical puppet hand
In 2011, Ivan Owen posted a video of a mechanical puppet hand he had made for a steampunk convention. A man from South-Afrika who had lost his fingers sent him an email after that, and they collaborated through emails and the internet to create a replacement finger.
This led to an email from mother of 5 year old Liam, who was born with no fingers on his right hand, asking them for a miniature version of the hand they created.
Ivan researched prosthetic devices and found Corporal Coles hand; constructed in the 1800s from whale bone, cable and pulleys. This hand would be the inspiration to the building blocks of the e-NABLE Community 3D printed hand.
He created a prototype for Liam, but wanted to use 3D printing to create a next version. So after teaching himself how to use the design software and getting his hands on 2 3D printers, they created the first 3D printed mechanical hand.
He could have patented the design for the mechanical hand, but instead, Ivan chose to publish the design files as open-source and public domain. This meant that everyone, everywhere could download and print these files, to create prosthetic hands at very low cost.
The first design wasn’t perfect, but designers all over the world started to improve the design and re-share. Furthermore, people everywhere offered their own 3Dprinters to help make the hands.
Ivan’s wife, Jen, started a Google+ group and created a map for makers to share their locations so that people in need of a hand could find the closest volunteers.
Just people and technology
Within the first year, the e-NABLE community grew from 100 to over 3000 volunteers, creating a total of over 750 hands. Another year and the member number is up to 7000, with about 2000 free hands created for kids all over the world.
The designs became better and better with the help of designers from all over the world.
Jen started a blog about the project where people could share their stories and share andre-share their design. But since then it has evolved into a place where people post tutorials, 3D printable hand design and set up learning projects. The blog also features a centralized calendar, so people can meet volunteers at meet-ups and workshops and they can find out how they can join the global community and use their 3D printers.
All new possibilities
Because the initiative has made it so easy to create prosthetic limbs, parents are building hands for their children, children are printing and building their own hands! Teachers are helping children to learn to build hands for other children, even in countries abroad; making sure hundreds of 3D printed hands go to places like Haiti and Syria, where a traditional prosthetic device wouldn’t be imaginable.