E-nabling The Future

A network of passionate volunteers using 3D printing to give the World a "Helping Hand."



What originally started out as a couple of guys who created a 3D printed hand  to help one child in need…has grown into a World wide Global Community of tinkerers, engineers, 3D print enthusiasts, occupational therapists, university professors, designers, parents, families, artists, students, teachers and people who just want to make a difference…who are creating hands for people in need and sharing their designs with the World for free.

They are coming together to create, innovate, re-design and give a “Helping hand” to those that need it – whether it is helping to print parts for them,  creating a completed device for them or simply helping to guide them as they build one themselves.

There are people around the Globe – 3d printing fingers and hands for children they will never meet, classes of high school students who are making hands for children in their local communities, a group of people that are risking their lives to get these devices onto people in 3rd World countries and new stories every day of parents working with their children to make a hand together.

The seed was planted and the Tree is branching out, growing and becoming more beautiful than ever imagined!

Come watch it grow with us!


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Little Alex Pring has had his new 3D printed arm for just about a week and after hugging his mom, riding his bike and playing with his favorite transformers – he has been discovering all sorts of things that having 2 arms is useful for!

Today, his mom sent us a few photos of Alex doing things that many of us take for granted every day. Things like being able to carry two bags of “lunch” around at the same time -or for that matter, eating a sandwich with one hand and holding your drink in the other!

Alex was able to channel his inner NASCAR driver and cruise around the grocery store with both hands on the wheel and he discovered the joy of being able to open the library book return box with one hand while dropping the book into the slot with the other.

These things may not seem very big to those that have always had two fully functioning arms and hands – but to kids like Alex – it’s HUGE.

Alex’s mom, Alyson, writes – “He has only had the arm about a week. He does really like wearing the arm out and about because now people are not looking at his little arm, now they are looking at his cool NEW ARM! and that makes him very happy. I have to say, honestly, the biggest use so far is CONFIDENCE! That makes all the difference in his world. He is happy to be different instead of being fearful of the negativity that the difference brings. He is excited to face it head on. He has met a new friend with a similar “little arm” and he is very excited to know someone in our town…before all of this, we never knew each other – but because of the news stories – we found each other.

There are no words for the way I feel at this moment. To see your child this happy about something he almost feared for a long time – is amazing. He used to introduce himself as “Hi. I’m Alex and I’m born this way.” That made me sad that he immediately put up a defensive wall just so others wouldn’t ask that question of “Why?” 

You never want to see your child struggle with people picking on him and that is something that he dealt with a lot – so to finally see all of the positivity coming from his arm instead of the negative that he got before – is great! We will take every day, one day at a time – because he will learn something new with this arm every day – not just things that will make life easier, but the way it will make him feel!” 

More and more – we hear from parents that the biggest improvement to their child’s life after getting an e-NABLE device – is increased confidence. That they go from being the “different” kid that gets picked on – to the “cool kid” with the arm that all of the other kids want to have.

While it is wonderful to hear that these devices are improving their lives in ways we hadn’t considered when we started making hands for children  – it is still disheartening to know that they often feel bullied and belittled by other children because of their differences.

We hope that someday – e-NABLE doesn’t just represent a global community that has come together to create plastic hands to put on children – but that this thing we are….the people we are….this thing we are doing together.…will become much bigger than putting $10 in formed plastic on a child to make them feel like a superhero… we hope it starts to represent a new way of treating our fellow human beings – reaching out to those who are “in need of a helping hand” and being willing and WANTING – to do our part to make someone’s life a little easier.

It may not be a big thing… but to the person that receives the kindness from a stranger…it is HUGE.

“I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody that needs a helping hand. I can’t change the way anybody else thinks or what they choose to do – but I can do my bit.” – Charles de Lint



3D Printed Myo-Electric Arm Design – Now Available For Free!

6 Year old Alex – checking out how his $350 Myo-electric arm works. – Photo by KT Crabb Photography.

Just a few days ago, a team at the University of Central Florida, put a 3d printed myo-electric arm on a 6 year old child. It cost them about $350 to create and is now a part of the growing number of 3d printed devices that have been released for free to the world through the e-NABLE community of over 1300 global volunteers world wide. You can read more about Alex’s story here.

The team at University of Central Florida has now released the blueprints and parts lists online for free – under a Creative Commons, Attribution, Non-commercial license. Please keep in mind that this is a prototype and as of today – has only been worn by one child and we do not have any cumulative data about safety, durability and function! We do however, hope to get a few more beta testers to try these out with the guidance of their physicians and will start publishing our research and findings soon!

If you are interested in making one of these devices – you can find everything you need to make one listed below!

3D Printable files can be found here: THING 408641

Parts list can be found HERE.

Instructions can be found HERE.

For an update on their story: Please visit their website!

If you create one of these for yourself, someone you know or a child – please email us and let us know how the process is going, how the arm is functioning and any feedback you can give that will help to make these devices cheaper to produce and add comfort for the user!

The world is an amazing place when people come together to make a difference!



“Limbitless” – 6 Year Old Gets $350 3D Printed Myoelectric Arm.

“My mother taught us that we’re supposed to help change the world…We’re supposed to help make it better. That’s why we did it.”
- Albert Manero, UCF Aerospace Engineer – on why he created a 3D printed robotic prosthetic device for 6 year old Alex Pring. 

When you are 6 years old and you  have finally come to that moment where you  just found yourself  slowly shuffling your feet down the hall toward your first day of kindergarten…backpack heavy with school supplies and snacks …trying to figure out if you are holding too tight to mom’s hand or if she is holding too tight to yours…and then you stand in the door to peer around and see the faces of the children you will spend the next 10 months with..you usually expect to get asked who your favorite super hero is, which video games you play or how many teeth you have lost already.

For Alex Pring, who was born missing his right arm from just above the elbow – those were the last questions he was faced with. His least favorite part of starting school, was repeatedly having to answer the question, “What happened to your arm?”

Alex prides himself on the fact that he accepts himself for who he is, the way he was made and that he can do a whole lot of things that kids with two arms can do… but admits that now that he is getting older and growing – some things are becoming harder to do.

Now, thanks to Albert Manero, a University of Central Florida Aerospace Engineering Doctoral student and his team – Alex has the first 3D printed e-NABLE Myoelectric arm that runs off of servos and batteries that are actuated by the electromyography muscle energy on Alex’s bicep!

While Alex can do quite a few things he hasn’t ever been able to do up until this point now that he has a robotic arm … the first thing he wanted to do when he learned how to use his new limb – was to give his mom a hug with two full arms for the first time in his life.

Manero and his team, manufactured the arm for less than $350 and they will be uploading their design and instructions on how to build the child-sized arm and hand to the internet so that anyone with access to a 3D printer can get the files and give another child the same opportunity that Alex has.

Albert is one of e-NABLE’s hidden gems. He introduced himself back in July of 2013 and shared that he was planning to take the original 3d printable snap together prototype design and improve upon it … and then… a year later he is a part of our new myoelectric group – sharing with them his incredible knowledge and letting them know that he has taken various design ideas from the e-NABLE community and the Flexy hand design by Steve Wood of Gyrobot (also a member of e-NABLE!)  and turned them into the first myo-design for Alex!

In the fall, when Alex walks down the hall toward his classroom for the first day of 1st grade – he will not be timidly shuffling his feet across the carpet…he will not be worrying about the awkward stares of his new classmates or their curiosity about the absence of his right arm…he will be ready to answer that “Who is your favorite super hero?” question with a very proud – “ME.”

For the full story about Albert, Alex and the $350 3D printed myoelectric arm design – please visit the University of Central Florida’s blog HERE.


All images by the very talented KT Crabb Photography!

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Letter From An Expectant Father – e-NABLING Hope.


We recently got this beautiful message in our inbox from an expectant father who just returned from their  first ultrasound imaging appointment to see his unborn child.  His words to the e-NABLE community hit me hard…we really are making a difference – even if it is just giving “Hope” to one parent who is faced with a challenge they weren’t expecting. Read his heartfelt letter to the e-NABLE community of volunteers, below:

“Dear Enabling The Future,

I am writing to say thank you!

Three weeks ago, at our twenty-one week baby scan, we were told that our unborn baby will be born without a full left hand. The ultrasound showed our baby may have a wrist and a small paddle without fingers. Emotionally, this was a shock that we were not prepared for, however, I am optimistic about our family’s future and how we will meet the challenges ahead. 

I found your web site and have been reading about your work. It is inspirational and I am heartened by what I have read concerning the technology, the caring nature of the people involved in design and production and the young children who have benefited. Knowing that this work is happening…it almost makes having a limb abnormality kind of cool. It has helped me to emotionally deal with what is ahead. For this – I thank you.

Kind regards,
“Expectant Father”  – New Zealand”

The hours that our volunteers spend designing, creating, blogging, sharing files, collaborating, matching families with volunteers, record keeping, working Makerfaires and events, meeting with doctors and prosthetists, researching and doing all of the behind the scenes work that no one really ever sees – is not just done for the children who are already blessing this planet with their smiles and determination – but it is done for the children to come.

We are still in the early phases of this 3d Printing technology. The e-NABLE community is but one year old – but we have accomplished so much already – that I have no doubt that by the time that this little one and his/her “Lucky Fin” is toddling around  and exploring the world – there will be so many more options for them to choose from – thanks to a global effort of people from all walks of life – who give their time and resources to bring hope to people who need it the most.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others, that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Nelson Mandela

For more information on Amniotic Band Syndrome, the Lucky Fin Project, Born Just Right and other upper limb difference resources – please visit our info page.

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e-NABLING FUN With 3D Printed Hands!

Every once in a while, we get a special treat from some of our families who have received an e-NABLE 3D printed hand.

Sometimes we get an email with updates on how they are doing and what they have been trying to do with their new devices, sometimes we get photos of children using their hands and every once in a while we get some fun video clips of the kids in action!

This is little Liam from South Africa – riding his bike while wearing his most recent “Talon Beast” hand that was created for him. Liam is the first little boy to ever get one of these 3d printed hands and the child that inspired the first design! It has been so amazing to watch him go from a clunky metal prototype hand and trying to pick up a ball with his new fingers – to riding a dirt bike with a 3D printed hand – like a pro!

Thank you to all of the parents and families that send us photos and videos to share with our volunteers! Seeing those smiling faces and wonderful photos of happy children – is what keeps us driven to continue volunteering our time and sharing our designs so that more and more children like Liam can do some of the things they haven’t ever been able to do before!

If you have had a device created for you or your child and would like to share photos or videos with the e-NABLE community – please do! Your smiles inspire us to keep creating!

You can email us at info@enablingthefuture.org!

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Impact Testing “The Beast!”

A team of students at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have been testing the durability and impact resistance of the Cyborg Beast Design!

They have been having fun – dropping it from 3 different heights to help determine the hand’s resilience. This included a 1, 3 and a 5 story fall!


The hand held up very well with just a few scrapes and scratches and they discovered that the biggest damage was located in the rails that separate the wrist straps. One of the screws on the tensioning pin came loose and there was a scuff mark up on top of the palm near the knuckle.

Even with these minor damages, the hand still held it’s function and retained it’s gripping mechanism. All of these damages can be easily replaced or fixed.

These tests will lead to information that will give our design teams feedback and help us to create stronger and more durable devices for all!

Below – you can see the only real damage from the “Drop” test! I guess you could say…”IT’S A BEAST!”

The railings between the straps broke.

A tensioning screw came loose.


There was a scuff mark on the top of the palm piece.


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Johns Hopkins & e-NABLE – Part 2

When we left off with Part 1 of our adventures at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore – we had introduced you to the amazing Dr. Albert Chi and shared a bit of his incredible background as a trauma surgeon, a leader in high tech muscle and eye controlled prosthetic devices and a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy Reserves.

Monday we spent the day watching Dr. Chi work with a wounded Warrior, getting to learn more about what he does at Johns Hopkins and brainstorming ways to work together to help spread the e-NABLE hands to children and adults who could never even dream of affording one of the high tech prosthetic devices that he usually works with or who are not able to be connected to an organization that could provide them with a device.

Originally, the meeting was set to just include a 4 hour meet and greet and to get some instruction on how to assemble our hand designs so that Dr. Chi and his team could try to make one and fit it to a patient. We had also been introduced to James Venderser, a Certified Prosthetist-Orthotist, who has a patient at the Walter Reed Medical center that he hoped to put the device on.

It worked out that Ivan and Jen Owen were not going to be flying back to Washington State until noon the next day – so they offered to come in early Tuesday morning before their flight – to walk Dr. Chi and two of his interns on his Motor Control Research team – college senior intern, Austin Steckler and high school senior intern Karam Lyons – through the process of creating a hand. Unfortunately, Jon and Peter were unable to stay another night and had headed out on their way late Monday.


Monday night before leaving the facility – Ivan had worked on teaching Karam how to properly size the files and prep them for print while Peter Binkley created the leather palm piece for the Talon Beast Combo design they were making and then showed Dr. Chi how we gather our measurements from our remote recipients. Austin volunteered to drive back later Monday evening to check the print and to pick Jen and Ivan up from the airport early Tuesday morning.

We arrived at Johns Hopkins as the sun was just coming up and after a little breakfast,  we jumped right into teaching them how to sand the parts to make them move more smoothly in the joints and Ivan taught them how to drill the holes larger without destroying the fingers.

Dr. Chi was very excited about helping to create this hand. He sanded some fingers, cleaned out support material in the gauntlet, helped tap the snap pins into the fingers and cut out the foam padding (Shoe inserts! For real!) to put into the palm and gauntlet to protect the recipient’s skin from harm. It was incredible to watch someone that can re-route human nerve endings in trauma patients – get so excited about watching blue plastic dust piles growing on a table and cutting out shapes in foam shoe inserts to place onto plastic pieces for a “Home made” prosthetic device!

With the five os us working together, we managed to teach Dr. Chi, Austin and Karam how to make a Talon Beast combo and complete the build of the hand in a little over 3 hours and with just enough time to grab some parting hugs, a photo op and a promise to visit again soon before Austin shuttled Jen and Ivan to the Airport!

final hand2
We are looking forward to getting an update sometime next week as to how the hand is working for the patient we created it for and hope to be able to share some photos!

In the next week or so – we also plan to share our exciting news about our upcoming work with Dr. Chi and the amazing things that are going to come from partnering with such an incredibly talented man with not only a heart for service to his country – but for underprivileged  people all over the world who can use a “Helping Hand.”

Stay tuned!



Johns Hopkins And e-NABLE – Part 1


Back in June, we got an email from Dr. Albert Chi – a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, whose practice includes critical care, trauma and acute care surgery. He also has a background in biomedical engineering and a clinical research – focused on improving the lives of individuals with traumatic injuries with an emphasis on motor control. Dr. Chi is also a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy Reserves (at Walter Reed)  in his dedication to serve our country and help care for the wounded warriors returning home and those injured on the field.


Dr. Chi is a leader in clinical research that is dedicated to individuals with upper extremity amputations and spinal cord injuries. He started a new program at Johns Hopkins, which enables individuals to use advanced myoelectric prosthetics after nerve reinnervation surgery and has been working on advanced human computer interfaces that allows individuals to control robotics with only their eyes. (Source: https://www.meddium.com/mas/achi3.mp)


You can see more of his work here:


In his first email, Dr. Chi simply asked us if we had any e-NABLE members who lived in or near Baltimore – that would be able to come teach him how to create our 3d printed prosthetic hands so he can fit them to some patients. This led to various conversations and ultimately – an invitation for 4 of our core e-NABLE members and leaders to visit him at Johns Hopkins to meet, share his work with us and teach him how to assemble and create our low cost 3d printable devices!

On Monday, July 14th, 2014 – Jon Schull (The founder of e-NABLE), Ivan Owen (The co-creator of the original 3d printed hand design), Peter Binkley (designer of the Talon and Ody hand and soon to be released Flextendor version) and Jen Owen (Ivan Owen’s wife and blogger/voice of e-NABLE) went to visit Dr. Chi and his staff.


Watching a man who spends his days hooking up electrodes to his patients and working with some of the most advanced technology in upper limb prosthetics – get excited and laugh out loud when he picked up a $50 e-NABLE 3D printed prosthetic hand and made it move – was incredible. While we were standing there in awe of his amazing talent and taking in the advanced robotic options for Dr. Chi’s amputee patients – he was like a kid in a candy store – playing with the simple body powered devices that we had brought along and can’t wait until he gets to fit some to children and disabled veterans at the local hospitals near him!


It was a whirlwind of information, sharing of ideas and coming up with ways to collaborate together for some HUGE and amazing things that will be announced soon!

Next blog post – Dr. Chi and his staff learn how to create a 3d printed Talon/Beast combo hand with the help of Ivan Owen and Peter Binkley!

Stay tuned!

For more photos – please visit our Facebook album!


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Swimming with…”The Beast!”

Please click above to watch a video of Shea swimming with her e-NABLE Cyborg Beast hand!

Over the past few months, sweet Shea has been e-NABLE’s “Poster Child”  – with her adorable giggle, contagious smile and her willingness to try out all sorts of different hand designs that Frankie Flood and Adream Bair and the team at UWM have been making for her. Shea has tested the Talon and the Cyborg versions of our designs and continues to share feedback on what is working and what needs to be improved.

Now that summer has arrived – she decided she wanted to test her Cyborg Beast out in the pool… and the results of her experiment?

*Insert giggle* “It is really FUN!” It’s easier to swim!”


Her mom writes: “Shea thought it was fun to swim with it! She said there was some “Drag” (Harder to pull through the water) on the forward crawl but the doggie paddle was easier with the hand because her hand floated on it’s own! She probably spent about 20 minutes playing with it and she can’t wait to go again!”

We asked Frankie to tell us a bit about the hand and tell us how well it will function with Shea getting it wet.

He writes: “We used ABS for printing Shea’s hand. The hardware is all stainless steel and anodized aluminum, the padding is Paterson closed cell foam and the velcro is tankard velcro. The padding is adhered to the gauntlet by epoxy. The hardware will not rust and should hold up to the moisture quite well. The ABS should be resistant to warping in the sun – it’s melting point is about 200 degrees.” 

So there you have it friends!

Take your “Beast” a swimmin!


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e-NABLING Differences – With 3D Printed Hands

This is Tully.

He is missing his arm  just below the elbow and has been working with his mom Karen and one of our e-NABLE volunteers Karyn Traphagen – to come up with a device that will work for him. He has also been a big part of helping to put his own device together and was also out helping to run the e-NABLE booth at the North Carolina Maker Faire back in June!



Most would assume that he would be eagerly awaiting the chance to test out the new arm design that our team at MAGIC RIT has been working on – but Tully is more interested in strapping a simple e-NABLE  hand to his elbow instead.


Because his entire life he has been using his “little paw” just below the elbow to do everyday tasks.  For Tully –  it makes more sense to him to just add fingers there instead of trying to adjust to having an extension where there hasn’t ever been one before. He isn’t concerned with how it looks – just that it works to do things he hasn’t been able to without fingers before now. (Though he is extremely excited that his e-NABLE hand glows in the dark!)


Young Derek, who is working with Jon Schull and the team at MAGIC RIT – designed the “long version” of the arm. From Derek’s perspective – he has been missing his arm his whole life…why not make it an extendo-arm instead?! Why stop at a matching arm length…when you can add inches to your reach? A reach you could never have been born with?

We are learning that the children who are getting these devices are not as interested in “Looking Normal” as most adults would be…they don’t view the world the same way we do. They aren’t constantly bombarded with what society tells them they should look like. Not yet anyway.

They don’t care that these devices look like “Robot hands” or “Plastic Toy Hands” …Actually – they break out in full body smiles when you mention that they will now look like the coolest “Transformer” there ever was! You give a child the choice between a more “Normal” looking prosthetic hand and a “Cyborg Robot” looking device – and 9 times out of 10, they are going to go with the hand that makes them feel like a super hero.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more adults were able to look at the world that way too? Being comfortable within our own skin and celebrating our differences…and allowing ourselves to do what feels right and true to ourselves – instead of what we think the world expects (and often demands) us to do?

Just picture the devices we could come up with over the next year…if we sat in a room full of children and created for them the hands of their imaginations!

“Too often we give children answers to remember – rather than problems to solve.” - Roger Lewin


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