August 2016

The maker community is an incredibly generous one, with thousands of makers of all ages and skill levels demonstrating, again and again,their eagerness to use their skills to help others. The example I always come back to is e-NABLE, whose community has grown to several thousand people dedicated to designing and 3D printing prosthetic hands and arms to donate to people in need. While they may be the most well-known organization creating free 3D printed prosthetics, they’re not the only one – and sometimes, individuals wow us just as much as organizations in terms of their determination and desire to help those in need.

Prashant Gade, a maker from Pune, India, is motivated by a desire to find solutions to real-world problems, of which amputation is a big one, particularly in developing countries. According to Gade, 80% of amputees live in developing nations, and less than 3% of them have access to prosthetic care. Even more staggering, he cites that one in five children in developing countries suffers from amputation. It was a five-year-old girl Gade met who motivated him to create a solution for as many of these children as possible.

The child was missing both of her arms from the elbows down, and while she has learned to adapt, she still obviously struggles with basic tasks such as feeding herself. Still, as you can see in the video below, she still grins and waves at the camera and shows a remarkable resourcefulness in functioning without most of her arms or any sort of prosthetic or assistive device.

Meeting the girl led Gade to further research prosthetic devices, with the goal of one day returning to present the child with prosthetics that could help her function. His research ultimately led to the creation ofBio_Nick, a 3D printed electronic prosthetic arm actuated by signals from the foot. The device allows the user to grip, write, and perform other tasks that a natural arm can do, and Gade managed to create it for only $100. For a myoelectric prosthetic, that kind of low cost is unheard of; similar devices can cost up to $40,000.

cZ3GtesLNow Gade intends to make as many of the devices available to people – particularly children – at no cost. To raise the money needed, he’s launched an Indiegogo campaign with the goal of raising $150,000. Rewards are mostly in the form of official recognition: a $2 donation will get you a thank you message on social media, while for a pledge of $50, you’ll receive a video message from not only the Bio_Nick team but the child who directly benefits from your donation. For $100 you’ll get a T-shirt, and for $250 the team will engrave your name on one of the prosthetic devices, so that the child who receives it will know the name of the person who helped them.

For a campaign like this one, though, it’s never about the pledge rewards – it’s about solving a problem that derails the lives of millions of people across the country. India alone is home to 22 million people with disabilities, with children making up nearly 8 million of that number. Due to cost and lack of accessibility, most of these people never get the help they need, which is why it’s so vital that the maker community continues to put its skills and time towards leveraging inexpensive 3D printing technology to help as many people as possible. No one person or organization can reach everyone in need, so every time a new project arises to add to the global effort of helping the disabled, it’s a great day. Learn more about the Bio_Nick project below. Discuss further in the 3D Printed Electronic Prosthetic Arm forum over at 3DPB.com.


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