E-nabling The Future

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

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e-NABLE Volunteers Going Above And Beyond • Agent “Cyborg”

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Meet “Agent Cyborg.” We can not tell you his age or location for fear that this information may fall into the wrong hands and compromise his secret mission.

What we can tell you is that he is the recipient of one of our e-NABLE hands after his parents saw an article online about our volunteer Aaron Brown who created a Wolverine Hand design and after initially appearing to be uninterested in trying one, “Agent Cyborg” asked his parents about it.

His Mom writes: “We were sitting on the couch and he started talking about his hand (something he hardly ever does! He just likes to ignore the fact that it’s different most of the time.) He said he thought a robotic hand would be super cool. So I pulled up the Wolverine article and his eyes lit up! He asked for one for Christmas and couldnt believe that someone would actually make one for him…he always thinks that nothing good ever happens to him because he got “stuck with the little hand” and his brother has “two normal hands.” We contacted e-NABLE and he was matched up with someone to build him a hand. 

We made the decision to try a helper hand because we wanted to improve his self esteem. He hates his hand. He hates being different. We just wanted him to feel special like the kid we know he is.”

Little did they know – they actually ended up getting matched with the same man who created the Wolverine design – Aaron Brown – and someone that took it upon himself to go above and beyond simply printing, assembling and shipping a hand to a young man in need of assistance.

Every story we share about another child receiving a new hand because of an e-NABLE volunteer is always something wonderful to read…but today we want to share a beautiful story of a perfect stranger going out of his way for a child hundreds of miles away – to not only gift him with some new 3D printed fingers – but to do his best to make sure that this young man felt special and unique for the first time in his life – instead of “cursed.”

When Aaron found out that “Agent Cyborg” was worried about seeing the Occupational Therapist at his school for fear of people thinking there was “Something wrong with him,” – Aaron decided that he was going to turn this into something more than just the usual volunteer opportunity – he turned it into a very personal and meaningful moment for everyone involved.

He turned it into a “Secret Mission.”

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He went out and purchased a special “spy case” to place the hand into, printed out some “Top Secret” and “Confidential” stickers for the outside of the case and even went as far as creating a document to welcome “Agent Cyborg” into the “League of E-NABLE Heroes” to encourage him to visit the “undercover agent” who would help him learn how to use his new hand.

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It reads:

“Welcome to the Elite Group of E-nable Heroes.

The device included in this package is the first of many classified prototypes you will receive for real life testing. If you find any size or damage issues, please report back to me directly for a new and improved hand to be sent to you.

Please be aware..we have an undercover agent in your city assigned to your case. Her codename is Agent “Carlberg.”

Once you feel you are ready for further “advanced” training with your new hand, please report to Agent Calrberg. She has been briefed and will provide the needed training to advance you to newer robotic hands in the future.

Again, I welcome you to the “League of E-nable Heroes.

I look forward to reading your mission reports.

- The Maker.”

“Agent Cyborg’s” mom tells us that “Agent Carlberg” has been watching from a distance and continues to keep her identity a secret from him and his friends at school but has sent agent training exercises to his parents for him to work on at home.

Recently “Agent Cyborg” reported that the kids in his class were really excited and surprised by his new hand and some of them even wanted one of their own.

Once again, our wonderful global volunteer community has created not only a hand for a child in need – but has gifted him with something even bigger – showing him that there are people in the world…perfect strangers…who care about him, want him to feel as special and amazing he really is and will do whatever they can to make it so and giving him something that helps him feel like the coolest kid on the planet. You really can’t put a price on that.

“Agent Cyborg” has a secret message for his maker:

.yug emosewa na era uoY !uoy knahT

Want to help?
Need a hand?
Please email us at letsgetstarted@enablingthefuture.org

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e-NABLE – Homework Hotline • 3D Printing


“You know, DISABILITY is a funny word.

Disability means you CAN’T do something.

It’s not a disease…and it’s not even a property of a person.

A person doesn’t have a disability…a person has a disability if he is in a world where he can’t do something.

If I didn’t have glasses in a world in which there is lots of fine print – I would be disabled. As it is, I am just a guy who wears glasses. The technology of eyeglasses, turned near sightedness and far sightedness into a nuisance, when it used to be a disability.

New technology is going to turn things like you are missing a hand or you can’t move your body or you have brain damage into a nuisance, rather than a disability.”

- John Schull – Founder of e-NABLE

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First e-NABLE Hand In China!

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Last week, e-NABLE got our first official volunteer in China and not a few days later – our first recipient!

After reading a story about e-NABLE on wechat (The Chinese version of Facebook) a mother of a young 3 year old boy in China, contacted her sister in Canada and asked her to translate our website information for her. The Aunt emailed our Matcher to inquire about getting a “Helper hand” for her nephew. She wanted to know if we could find a volunteer who was willing to create and ship a hand overseas to her nephew…but instead of having to wait weeks and possibly months to find a volunteer to print that would also be able to pay for the shipping costs to China…the case was matched to our first Chinese Volunteer!

Because we now have a volunteer in China, it took merely 7 days from the time she contacted us for help to get them matched with our volunteer in their area, have it printed, fully assembled and delivered to the family.

The way in which we are able to assist people from thousands of miles away, simply by sending emails and files via the internet – is incredible! The amazing work that can be accomplished to help improve people’s lives because of 3D printing and hundreds of volunteers who are willing to use their machines to create positive change in the world – is beyond beautiful.

Take this very story for example:

• A story is written about an e-NABLE hand device and shared online.
• An individual with a 3D printer reads it, gets excited about helping and signs up to volunteer to print a device.
• A relative of a child in need sees another article online.
• The relative emails e-NABLE to ask if we can help make a hand for her nephew.
• The Matcher locates the volunteer on our virtual map.
• The Matcher contacts the Volunteer to ask if he is interested in creating the hand for a child near him.
• The Volunteer agrees to print and assemble the device for the child – at no cost to the child’s family.
• The Matcher notifies the recipient that they have been matched with a volunteer.
• The Matcher acquires the needed measurements and photographs to create the STL file for the child’s hand device.
• The Matcher sends the information to the Volunteer
• The Volunteer 3D prints the hand and assembles it.
• The Matcher sends the Volunteer the shipping information.
• The Volunteer ships the hand or meets with the family to deliver the hand.
• The Recipient now has a hand that was created because his Aunt and Uncle in an entirely different country, saw an article online about an organization that could help create a hand for their nephew and was able to share information in a matter of minutes that would allow the volunteer to start printing and produce a completed device in mere days.

It is pretty incredible.

And look! The little one is already mastering carrying around apples and putting them in his cart for transport!

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Our Matcher, Melina, received this email this morning:

“Hi Melina!
My nephew got his new hand yesterday in China, it is amazing!

All his family were so happy when they saw my nephew wear his new hand and he can pick up an apple all
by himself! I attached his picture for you. You can tell how surprised he is when he wears it!

Again,  thank you and all of your team that helped my nephew’s family. Your volunteer in China who’s name is Erwin
Zhang is very helpful. He helps my sister translate all the (e-NABLE) documents into Chinese and gave them a
professional explanation. When my sister got the Chinese email from your volunteer, she told me that she
felt so comfortable because she could read it by herself!

Your  organization is really helpful and effective for people who are in need of help!”

We can’t wait to see what this little one can do with his new hand and we hope that it inspires more makers in China to join and start printing as well!

We are very excited about every news article we find about e-NABLE hands being put onto children and adults but we are even more excited when we run across an article in a language for a country where we have little to no volunteers yet – because it means they are finally hearing about what we are doing and eventually we will be able to fill up their region with little pins on our e-NABLE map too.

More pins on our map = More people we can help.

We get a lot of inquiries from all over the world and much of our volunteer base is in the United States – which means that  for a Volunteer offering to help a child in far off lands…they will have very hefty shipping costs for them to get it to the recipient who is eagerly awaiting their turn to feel like a super hero. In many countries, the recipient also has to pay import taxes to get the device once it has arrived in their country. It also means that if something breaks on the hand… they have to wait weeks to get replacement parts.

Our global community hopes that more and more individuals, maker groups, schools, libraries, families, communities, medical professionals, outreach programs and more – will start using 3D printers to help give their neighbors a “helping hand.”

If you have a 3D printer and would like to help – please email us at letsgetstarted@enablingthefuture.org.

We CAN make a difference – one smile, one hand at a time.

Will you join us?

Will you share our stories on your facebook pages, twitter feeds, google+ accounts and more? The farther we can spread our voice – the more people we can help! Thank you!

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3D Printed “Iron Man Hand” Bubba – Visits “The Doctors Show!”

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Many of you have seen the adorable little “Iron Man” Rayden who made his way around the globe via the internet with his adorable “unboxing video” when he received his first 3D printed e-NABLE hand and who we have updated you about recently as he began his “Super Hero Training” with his wonderful OT “Aunty Donna” at Therapeutics Associates of Maui.

This morning, he appeared on the CBS Television show, “The Doctors” where his Grandma Rulan was able to share his story and the story of the e-NABLE community who are out there volunteering their time, talents and resources to provide children and adults from all over the world – free 3D printed helper hands too.

If you haven’t seen the video of the episode that was shared on television this morning – go on up and click the image above and spend a few minutes watching a story about another child that feels enabled because of the power of open source designs, global collaboration and a network of passionate volunteers from all over the earth who just want to give the world “a helping hand.”

If you are interested in getting a device created for your child, yourself or someone you know – or if you are a school, a church group, a girl or boy scout troop, a bunch of friends, a makerspace or someone with a 3D printer that wants to help – please send an email to letsgetstarted@enablingthefuture.org and you can get started filling out the intake forms to become either a possible recipient (our devices will not work for every person – but we will do our best to try!) or a volunteer to create these for others!

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5 Year Old Kindergarten Boy Gets 3D Printed e-NABLE Hand

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(Please click the image above to be taken to the video news piece!)

On Friday, Keith Harris, age 5 – became the coolest kid at school with his new e-NABLE hand.

He spent the day high fiving his parents, classmates, teachers and news reporters and testing out his new fingers. You can read more about his adventures at school and watch the news video clip by clicking the image below!

e-NABLE volunteers around the world are working hard to make more moments like this happen!
If you are interested in joining with our growing online community of makers, thinkers, tinkerers, artists, engineers, students, teachers, parents, families and others who want to donate your time to helping create joy for children and adults who are missing fingers – please join us in our Google+ group!

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Alex Tests Out His New 3D Printed Elbow Driven e-NABLE Arm!

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Over the past few months, e-NABLE has been working on various designs for elbow actuated arms, exoskeletons, myo-electric arms and more to go along with our growing collection of wrist activated designs, so that we can help even more people who have upper limb differences.

A few days ago, Alex was gifted a “Helper arm” completely free of charge to his family by  an e-NABLE volunteer and has been testing it out on all sorts of activities from just simply picking up objects to playing tennis, pool and ping pong with it! Check out this video of his various activities in just a matter of days!

Alex’s parents first saw the e-NABLE RIT “Derek Arm” video posted on the “Born Just Right” facebook page in August of this year  and got in touch with our enable Matcher, Melina, who connected them to Volunteer Nick Norris. Not only did Nick print the arm pieces for them, but he also spent many hours redesigning the socket to better fit Alex’s arm, sent some fun 3D printed Minecraft Creepers to Alex and his brother while they waited for the arm to be finished and even put the arm together only to take it apart again so they could put it back together again as a family!

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Nick discovered e-NABLE while doing a Google Search for his first 3D printer purchase and saw the video of Frankie Flood and the UWM team making the first hand for Shea. He says “I knew right then, that I wanted to have the same experience of changing a kid’s life. Being involved with e-NABLE allowed me to meet a great family that wanted the same thing – to make a better life for their son. This experience really has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.” 

Initial sizing for Alex’s new arm was done by scanning a plaster cast that was provided by the family and by using photos and measurements that Nick was provided through the Matcher system. Alex has a congenital RBE (Right arm, below elbow) limb difference. His “little arm” ends two inches or so below the elbow.

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Nick writes: “At my day job, I design racing engine components and in that world, you constantly walk the fine line between light weight and durability. The considerations for Alex’s arm are really no different. Due to his limb difference, he has minimal leverage in his forearm so it makes sense to take a weight conscious design approach. 

For the most part, the RIT design was good. I spent most of my efforts redesigning the forearm cup. I wanted to reshape the inside so that it would allow the use of a soft insert and after removing some unnecessary materials I ended up with a 25% reduction in weight. I also chose to use Frankie Floods Cyborg Beast remix fingers. These have a more slender shape and by using printed pins – additional weight was removed by not having to use five Chicago screws in the finger joint. These seem like small things, but I think that anything you can do to make use of the device easier for the child is worth the effort!” 

Alex’s mom writes “Alex has only had his arm for a few days but our plan is to work with an OT. Your blog post on “Super Hero Training” was really compelling. Alex has never tried another prosthetic device. We did some reading on limb differences when Alex was younger and the consensus seemed to be that many kids with upper limb differences reject prosthetic devices. We planned to revisit the issue if Alex expressed interest, but because he was doing so well with so many tasks – including bike riding, baseball and origami(!) – it wasn’t something we spent a lot of time thinking about.

Until we found e-NABLE, we were not planning on going down the path of finding a prosthetic device for Alex. Many kids with upper limb differences find currently-available prosthetic devices “clunky and uncomfortable” and most don’t run across a whole lot they CAN’T do. They find a way! But we were intrigued enough by the possibilities of the RIT arm and especially the e-NABLE community, that we decided to join up and see what a growing group of volunteers might accomplish. 

We are so very glad we did!”

Our e-NABLE RIT Arm design is still in the beginning stages of development but we have over 2000 members in our volunteer group who are all continuing to donate their time and talents to improve upon every design we come out with so that more and more children and adults will be able to receive a comfortable, safe and useful “Helper hand or arm.”

We have volunteers with all sorts of backgrounds – from puppet makers, race car engine component makers, French teachers, Jewelers, 3D print enthusiasts, engineers, visual artists, occupational therapists, wood workers, teachers, students and more. We even have a “Retired Mountain Unicyclist” turned Magician!

You may not think that your ideas can be helpful in the creation of body powered helping hands – but you might just surprise yourself and have an idea that no one else has thought of that could really make a difference.

If you would like to join us in our “Think tank” on Google+ – please do!

No idea is too small!

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e-NABLING Super Hero Training • The Importance Of OT’s And PT’s

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You may remember the story of the adorable little guy named Rayden or “Bubba” with the “Iron Man Hand” that made it’s way around the world and still pops up on your facebook and twitter feeds now and again!

We thought we would give you a bit of an update on how he is doing!

While we love getting to see the stories of the children getting their hands and their excitement after trying them on and using them to do things they haven’t been able to do before, quite often we do not get to hear how things go once they start using them on a day to day basis. We are hoping to start sharing more updates on some of our e-NABLEd kids so that other parents will be encouraged to get their medical providers involved.

Many parents get very excited about e-NABLE and the stories they read on the internet and sometimes come to us with unrealistic expectations as to what these “helper hands” can actually do for their children. These e-NABLE hands are no where near the same as a real prosthetic hand device. They are only as strong as your child makes them and that all depends on their wrist function and how much force they can generate to close the device. Your child may actually prefer to go without their new hand more often than not because they have learned how to get along without fingers for many daily activities and will generally be faster and more efficient at the task without those “pesky fingers” getting in the way!

These hands should be seen simply as “Helper tools” and not actual prosthetic devices. While they will be useful in some activities – they are less effective in others. Much like you would use a hammer to drive a nail so you can hang a picture on the wall…you would not use that same tool to eat your cereal in the morning! (Well…you could…wouldn’t that be an adventure?!)

We encourage ALL who use one of these hands – to work with an occupational therapist, physical therapist or some kind of medical professional that can make sure the fit is correct, that no harm is being done to the skin or muscles and that the user is not using the device too much, too quickly.

Little Rayden’s mom, Rayven, shared some updates with us on his progress with the hand now that he has had it for about a month.

She writes: “When he first started using it he was having a very hard time and got discouraged very quickly. It was hard for him because he wasn’t used to to using the muscles in his right arm. He also got frustrated because certain things he attempted to pick up would slip out of his hand.

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Thankfully two weeks after we got his hand we started going to Therapeutics Associates of Maui for some help. His occupational therapist “Aunty” Donna was AMAZED when she first saw his hand. She needed to first learn how it worked and before you knew it she had a bunch of exercises for Rayden to try  – or in his eyes, “games” to try with him. 

She has this awesome toy that strictly uses wrist movement to operate it. You need to make a “rowing” movement of your hand in order to help the ball roll around and around in a circle. That so far is Rayden’s favorite! A more simple exercise we started off with was simply holding a soft light object in his hand for 5-10 seconds squeezing tight and releasing. Playing catch with a small size bouncy ball helped him learn that there is now an extension to what used to be a very short hand. He is also using the ball or small object and holding it tightly as to not drop it and then aiming it into a box. Because he loves it so much and he’s progressing so well we are now going to therapy every week and it is usually about an hour session. To him its “playtime” so he doesn’t mind!

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Rayden would normally use his new “helper hand” mostly during school and even then he would take it off. Now that we have sticky fingertips and he’s been learning to use it better and his muscles have strengthened he uses it a lot more. He’ll use it to ride his bike, play ball, hold his cup and help pour drinks for us. I’m sure in no time he’ll be doing a lot more. He’ll just wear it when we go to the store and hold some fingers down mimicking spiderman and as we walk around I catch him holding his fingers closed in a fist and slowly letting go which was another exercise he learned through therapy. 

Thankfully Rayden’s therapy is free of charge for us. Donna from Therapeutic Associates of Maui was so interested in seeing the e-NABLE hand and meeting Rayden she said she wouldn’t charge us. Although for some it may have a cost them to see a therapist, it is so worth it! I have seen Rayden do 10 times more things and actually want to wear his hand more and try new things thanks to his occupational therapy sessions.”

We look forward to seeing what Rayden will be able to accomplish with his e-NABLE hand in the near future!

If you have created a hand for your child, have had one created for them or plan to get them an e-NABLE helper hand device, please make sure you get in to contact with a physical or occupational therapist to help your child learn how to use muscles they have never had to use on a regular basis and to teach their bodies how to become used to having an extension to their bodies that they have never experienced before!

Way to go little Iron Man! Keep up the good work!

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The FDA: e-NABLing The Future Of 3D Printing

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Over the past few days, some of our e-NABLE members have been at the FDA Public Workshop: Additive Manufacturing Medical Devices: An Interactive Discussion on the Technical Considerations of 3D Printing.

A workshop focused on getting members of the FDA, medical field, educators, companies and inventors together to talk about the evaluation process and how 3D printed devices should be assessed.

One of our core members, Peter Binkley, attended and shares his thoughts below:

“I just arrived home from the FDA workshop on Additive Manufacturing of Medical Devices. Those of you who attended the Hopkins/e-NABLE conference may remember Lt. James Coburn from the FDA who attended and was a speaker. He is completely supportive of our efforts. He was one of the main facilitators of the workshop yesterday and today. He and his colleagues in attendance (Matthew Di Prima, PhD; John F. Gillespy, FDA Chief Regulatory Officer; Steven Pollack, PhD, Director of the FDA Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories; Katherine Vorvolakos PhD; Irada Isayeva PhD; LCDR Michel Janda; Christina Savisaar, PhD; Joel Anderson, PhD; Jennifer Kelly, PhD; Mark H. Lee, PhD) are quite aware that the impact of the FDA on the pace of innovation has not always been a positive one, and that actually following existing regulations would paralyze research in many sectors. The FDA culture today seems to be guided down the chain of command by a philosophy that they need to encourage change and growth if we are to survive as a nation and as a planet. They seem quite determined to remove, reform or ignore many existing regulatory barriers, especially for projects that have potential to really help people. During one of the breaks today, I happened to meet a project manager from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia whose team is being *funded* by the FDA to bring medical devices for children to the market.

My impressions of the FDA based on my first direct experiences with their personnel were incredibly positive, and I think our e-NABLE volunteers also made a good impression. I think they will be strong allies for e-NABLE as we move forward.

I should also mention the NIH (National Institutes of Health). On the first day of the workshop, I had the pleasure of speaking with Darrell Hurt at length. He and his team are also 100% behind our efforts. They are excited to host our files and documentation on the NIH 3D printing Exchange https://3dprint.nih.gov and have really gone the extra mile to maintain lines of communication and accommodate our needs on the exchange.

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It is pretty ironic that as soon as I arrived home I saw a link to this article on Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johngoodman/2014/10/07/save-the-children-from-the-fda/
Mr. Goodman is quite ignorant about e-NABLE, and in particular its relationship with the FDA, and about the FDA in general.  He uses our organization to malign the FDA, ignoring all facts surrounding our actual interactions with the people of that agency. Please do not criticize the FDA in its current administration, unless you have actual experiences and data to back your views. The FDA is actively reaching out to e-NABLE and has been nothing less than wonderful. Articles like Mr. Goodman’s only serve to harm the relationships the FDA is actively and constructively cultivating with business, educational institutions, non-profits, and the public-at-large.

More on the Workshop

The industry leaders at the workshop were as dry and theoretical as you can imagine. They seemed so determined to guard their trade secrets that all they offered were vague references to “proper settings and standards” without giving any practical numbers or figures. I heard complaints from more than a couple attendees that all we were getting from these “experts” was a sales pitch for products and services nobody could afford, and nothing in the way of actual sharing of information.

By contrast, the presentations by university researchers were incredible and incredibly informative, like: How to hack a 3d printer and an HP26 inkjet cartridge and print freaking human organs!! Something like a dozen major living organs and tissues, including composite tissues successfully printed (You need two or three inkjet cartridges for this. Search the trash can!), and 20 more to go!! Third degree burns? No problem! They can culture your skin cells and print some new silky skin directly onto your burn site! Are you kidding me, Wake Forest SC?!?

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Other presentations included 3d-printed bio-absorbable tracheal supports for infants with collapsed windpipes. Typically a fatal condition, saved by the printer and some very smart, very compassionate people. Also some exciting work on the imaging of pediatric heart defects.

The breaks between discussions were amazing too, Jon Schull, Mohit Chaudhary, and I got to meet with some very cool and talented people, some of whom joined or will soon join e-NABLE and who may be instrumental in various future e-NABLE initiatives.

I’ll let them introduce themselves.”

We look forward to discussing the future of e-NABLE further with the FDA and the NIH and will update our blog in the coming weeks and months to keep you informed!If you are interested in becoming a part of this amazing chapter in history – please feel free to join us in our Google+ Group!

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e-NABLE’s 3D Printed “Active Outdoors” Hand

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Over the past year and a half, our website has been filling up with images of beautiful smiling children who have received e-NABLE hands and who now feel like cool little super heroes instead of the kid in class who has something different about them for other children to poke fun at.

While creating 3D printed “Helper” hands for children has been our main focus for the purpose of providing low cost devices for the little ones that are still growing and who will need a new device every few months – we are also making them for adults now and again.

We have hopes to start getting more designs aimed at providing low cost alternatives to our adult users and finding ways to provide these to the disabled and wounded Veterans around the world who are unable to get a commercially created device.

While our designs do not provide the same functions as the more expensive prosthetic choices available – they do offer the user the ability to carry items, do various tasks that are easier accomplished with two hands and have the same self confidence boosting powers as the devices we are creating for the younger children.

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What’s What With e-NABLE 3D Printed Devices?

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Over the past year, e-NABLE volunteers have come up with a variety of 3D printed hand and arm devices and have released many of the files free to download for anyone that would like to either create one for someone they know or take the files and improve upon them. This has lead to numerous prototypes and a whole lot of media coverage that is often not correct!

We would like to make sure that those that are following our story about our volunteer community – know exactly what is available and how to find the files or how long they can expect to wait to either receive a device, get printed parts or how long it may be before a design they have seen in the news, will actually be available to them.

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