This semester Nora and I worked with Enabling the Future on designing and printing 3D prosthetics. Nora found the company and Vishal helped with getting in touch with the e-NABLE team at SXSW. From there we had our first assignment. In order to be certified by e-NABLE to make prosthetic devices for real people, we had to first print and assemble a prototype hand. The designs are premade so they just need to be printed. In some cases, the hands or fingers need to be resized to fit the end user. Our first hand was called the Raptor Reloaded, printed in black and blue filament. Printing the materials was quite easy compared to assembling the hand. The instructions were available online with detailed pictures and descriptions. The assembling process taught us a lot about how best to make the hand and what were some obstacles that we faced. For example, a lot of the parts needed to be filed down so that it would fit easily together. We also worked with the tension in the fingers so the hand would move properly and learned how to tie some pretty complicated sailor knots that the site suggested we use for the hand.
After the first hand was sent in, we decided to print another Raptor Reloaded to be used as a sample in the Maker Lab for future students that are interested in the project. The process was very similar to the first one except we didn’t have all of the assembling materials needed for the hand such as the strings, screws, and Velcro. Enabling the Future sells packages that cost around $25 for materials for the Raptor Reloaded. Instead of buying another package, we improvised with some of our own materials. Feel free to check out the hand in the Maker Lab during open hours!
Towards the end of the semester, the e-NABLE team got back to us about a real recipient, his name is Bruce and he is a 53 year old male from North Carolina. He is missing three of his fingers on the right hand, so instead of making a prosthetic hand we were tasked with making replacement fingers. Some sizing needed to be done in the fingers, but other than that the prints were ready. The instructions for the Owen Replacement Finger were also available online; however, they were not as detailed as the Raptor hand. We also had to improvise on getting the necessary materials such as a glove, needle and thread, and elastic, which were not available in a pre-made kit for this type of hand.
The MakerLab will keep working with the e-Nable organization, and enable students to create an impact and learn digital fabrication at the same time.