3D printers helping the disabled?

The number of amputated limbs reaches as many as 15 million worldwide. It is a huge amount which, though, cannot picture how much of human emotional and physical pain is present in this situation. Losing a limb brings a drastic change of life, causing lots of stress and feeling of helplessness. Getting used to the situation is not the whole success. Yet another challenge is to find a solution which will regain the previous life activity as much as possible. Here prostheses come with help, but getting them (they are not cheap, unfortunately), learning to live with them and using them right become a difficult process with many obstacles to overcome. Luckily, there are more and more solutions which may help disabled people come back to normal life easier.

The lack of money no longer means an end of dreams about a prosthesis. The example of Selvan Mohan shows that crowdfunding may come with help also in such terrible life circumstances. He used YouCaring.com – a crowdfunding platform – to find help in funding his leg prosthesis.

What about people who cannot use such a platform? There are many people among inventors and businessmen who are willing to help those with problems in financing their prostheses or who cannot gather funds by the means of crowdfunding. With the use of 3D printers and some help from the outside you can achieve a simple prosthesis. We hear about such generosity from time to time in the news. It is a great hope for many people.

Yet another source of the precious hope is an organization – e-NABLE. Their work by gathering medicine and industry leaders and public policy to create an event which aims at not only educating professionals, but also at donating upper limb prostheses to children. A prosthetic hand created by their group of volunteers cost $50. All this thanks to 3D printed parts got together by the use of widely accessible screws and connectors. The organization has already helped many people in need of a hand prosthesis with the help of their global network of volunteers. Moreover, they aim at providing an open hand design files for printers.

As we can observe, innovative 3D printing has brought a new fertile and promising ground for prostheses industry. By making it much cheaper and more available for even the poorer group of people in need, it creates a great amount of hope for better life, even after so tragic event as is losing a limb. A leading trauma surgeon – Dr. Albert Chi admits that the $50-costing 3D hand appears to be of a great potential and is a chance for people who are in need of help, yet, paying from $30,000 to even $50,000 for a new limb is impossible for them.

For now, 3D prostheses production is still not sufficient and cannot solve the whole problem. However, observing the process of growing interest and a gradual improvement in the area, the appearance of new, cheaper and much easier available possibilities creates hope. This new “art” of making prostheses brings new opportunities and this is crucial. Let’s work on the better future.