Do you need a hand? Let me print one for you

[Article Updated 2/19/2015]

It might sound like something from a sci-fiction movie but it’s not. Technology is moving so fast that we now have the ability to create all kinds of things that 5 or 10 years ago you could only purchase from a manufacture who specialize in custom jobs. Now you can make your own objects, toys, products, and even body parts from the comfort of your own home.

Using various instructions and videos online one could easily teach themselves how to use a 3-D printer. If that sounds like too much work, you can always visit a Techshop or Hackerspace where people can come in and build anything they want and learn how to use all their equipment including 3-D printers. You can get hands-on experience designing specs and then putting them into the printers to print out whatever you like. Then when you feel comfortable enough on your own to use it you can create some pretty amazing things for people. That is what these students did for others who were not so fortunate in life but thanks to the amazing possibilities that 3D printers bring, it’s made it affordable to be able to get body parts made on the cheap.

Story 1
Matthew Shields’ was your typical 9-year-old boy; he loved to play sports, hangout with his friends and do boy stuff. The only difference was that Matthew was born with an undeveloped hand with only a thumb. A family friend, Wilde, who is a 16-year-old from Louisburg High School junior decided to help him out. He knew about this website that had designs for prosthetic  hands called Robohand. This website has helped thousands, if not millions in the coming year, gain back the ability to use their hands again. Wilde knew his local library, Johnson County Library, had a 3-D printer so he went over and uploaded the designs he downloaded from Robohand and after taking 8 hours, gave the hand to Matthew who has now been able to use it in his life, enabling him to feel like a regular person.

Additional Links
Video Story
Kansas City News
Kansas City Star
3ders Story

Story 2
Engineering students can create some pretty amazing things and for one 8 year old, it was something that allowed him to do the things he enjoys the most, playing sports. The students at Westtown school were studying how to use 3-D printers to create things and one of their projects was to create a prosthetic hand. They said it took awhile but after it was finished it give new life to the 8 year old, Steele Songle, to be able to do the things he enjoys.

Story 3
Boylan High schoolers have enabled a little girl, Kylie Wicker, who is 9-year-old girl to be able to use her hand again. The high school had a 3-D printer donated to the school, in which Bud May the engineering graphics teacher, taught himself how to use. The school got an educational license to teach 3-D printing technology. When the students found out about Kylie, they offered to print out a hand for her, two infact in different colors (one in pink and one in purple). The students were all supportive when asked if they wanted to learn how to make 3-D objects. How the school got involved was the father of Kylie, Jeromy, did a search online because he heard about a dad who had made a hand for his son and when he found a local school had a 3-D printer donated to them he asked if they would help. The students in the class took on the challenge and this week little Kylie will be getting her new hands. Both Jeromy and Sharon knew they wouldn’t be able to afford the expensive costs that go with buying prosthetic parts, an industry that will eventually realize they will have to come down in price if they want to compete any longer, because their insurance would only cover 80%. Looking online and finding the school has saved them a lot of money, the total cost Kylie’s parent’s will be paying is $20 dollars.

The school has now gone on to offer their services for other kids in similar situations. A great thing to say your a part of on your college application for any student who is apart of that project.

ABC News Story
Khon News Story
BusinessInsider Story

If you are really interested in learning about Robohand and how it has gone one to change people’s lives, you can check out their website. The story of how it all got started was that one day Richard van As was working with wood when he sawed off his fingers. He is from South Africa. He met Ivan Owen who is a mechanical special-effects artist from Washington state. They worked together to create a mechanical finger in 2011 and from there they created the website Robohand for anyone to access and download what they created.

MakerBot has also created their own collection of hand deigns for people to use and download. You can see the different designs on their website Thingiverse and if you need help assembling the Cyborg Beast hand you can watch this video below to learn the process yourself.

These boys show just how impactful having an arm or hand can be and what it means to them.

Boy Gets Trooper Arm

Boy Gets Prosthetic Hand from 3-D Printer

Learn about Cyborg Beast Prosthetic Hand

Entrepreneurs find solutions from everyday setbacks. Yours could come from a small thing in life that you dread doing or maybe a way to improve something that just needs a little tweaking. Entrepreneurs are resourceful. They find new ways of looking at something and then go out and create it. If Richard Van As was a true capitalist, he would have tried to make money off of his 3-D designs, instead he knew the struggles of what it’s like not to be able to use any of your body parts. What he did for the world was a very generous deed that many people all over the world have been able to benefit from. He didn’t worry about trademarks or copyrights, he put it out there for the world to use because people needed it and for that he is rewarded by the recognition he deserves.

If you would like to be apart of this growing movement to help kids connect with engineers and people with 3-D printers you can contact the non-profit organization, E-Nable, which was started by Jon Schull in 2013. They connect volunteers with kids who need help getting a prosthetic hand made that is affordable. Their program has helped trained tons of people in learning how to download the designs and upload them to 3-D printers to print out and then assemble.

The website also offers a tool for parents to use in helping find the right size for their child’s hand. You can use the Hand-o-Matic online tool to find the right size. You can also contact a volunteer to help you with the whole process so you don’t end up getting the right design files. If you print out the wrong size it won’t fit your child’s hand correctly.

The look on people’s faces who need body parts is worth the effort to be apart of this growing trend. The cost of real medical prosthetics is too costly, especially for kids who will outgrown them in a few years, so parents have looked to the internet and found many options that are cheap and easy to learn for themselves. Be sure to check out their Facebook page to stay up to date on events, including their Twitter page.

Jon Schull said it best when he gave a speech about the importance of what it is he is doing for kids.

If you would like to be a part of this growing movement and help a child get a hand for free then you can click here to learn how to become a volunteer for E-Nable. John Hopkins now gives kids free hands who request them as well.

News Articles

Six-year-old Joseph Gilbert of Chester, N.Y. can thank the power of 3-D for giving him a hand that he can use since he was born without any fingers on his left hand.

3-D Printing Prosthetic hands that are anything but ordinary

Need a Hand? There’s a printer for that

3-D Printed Car

3-D Printer News/Links – Facebook Page, Twitter, YouTube, Google+

UltimakerFacebook Page, Twitter


Dremel 3D Idea Maker

Instructables 3-D Printing


Autodesk 123D



My Mini Factory


Maker’s Bot Digital Store

Google 3D Warehouse


2 thoughts on “Do you need a hand? Let me print one for you

  1. Pingback: This 13 year old just made his own Google Glass | The Life of An Entrepreneur

  2. Pingback: These Markets are Predicted to Rule in 2015 | The Life of An Entrepreneur

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