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Lending a Hand


3D Printing a Low-Cost Prosthetic Hand

I began using 3D printing for my wearable device prototypes, sending designs to a service such as Shapeways or contracting with a local firm run by biomedical engineer Rachel Dreilinger. But I wanted to iterate on my designs more quickly and at lower cost, so in 2017 I built my own 3D printer from the Prusa i3 MK3 kit.

I discovered there’s a learning curve to 3D printing, but fortunately there’s also a massive online community of “makers” adopting the technology — over 1000 right here in Portland! –so there has been plenty of help available. One community, e-Nable, has tackled the challenge of 3D printing free prosthetic hands for clients in lower medical resource environments. It’s well organized, with an informal certification program for fabricators, and the accompanying video was my application for approval.

Designing and Printing a Robotic Gripper

As 3D printing became easier, public libraries stepped in to provide access to this technology. The Hillsboro Public Library built a well-equipped “Collaboratory” makerspace where I served as a volunteer, teaching a class and helping patrons use the devices available. A fellow volunteer had taken on an interesting project — designing and fabricating a sophisticated robotic arm — and given the daunting size of the project, he welcomed my offer to design a gripper to go at the end of the robotic arm. You can learn about my efforts in the associated video here.