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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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


Happy Birthday e-NABLE!


(Please click on the image above to view our Happy Birthday e-NABLE video!) 

One year ago, Jon Schull created an online community to coordinate the crowdsourced design and delivery of 3D printed prosthetic hands to all who need them. On day one, there were 18 members…today, one year later, we have over 1150 and the numbers grow every single day.


What started as a simple question, posted on a video that he saw about two men who had created a 3d printed hand for a small child in South Africa – asking if anyone else with a 3d printer would like to help make hands too…has grown into a global online community of not just 3d print enthusiasts….but has also evolved to include makers, thinkers, artists, designers, engineers, students,  teachers, children, parents, families, occupational therapists, colleges, libraries, hand specialists, prosthetists and more.

Today we celebrate a year of collaborations, friendships forged, goodwill extended, hands and smiles created, lives changed, knowledge gained, challenges offered, creativity shared and all of the volunteers who make this global e-NABLE community thrive.

Let’s see what another year can do!

“This is an experiment in world-changing. So far, so incredible!

On Day One – when the map was created – we described ourselves as a “Global volunteer assistive technology network build on an infrastructure of electronic communications, 3D printing and good will.”

The experiment has already proven that there are literally thousands of skilled and generous people worldwide who will offer their time and support for a challenge and opportunity like this…and be grateful for the opportunity!

And in the future, it is quite possible that our model will generalize.

From “3D printing” to “emerging technologies,” and from “Assistive technology” to…”e-NABLE the full potential of underserved populations to help make the world a better place?”

- Jon Schull



A Family Comes Together To Create 3D Printed Hand

Last weekend, Dawson and his family drove for 12 long hours (round trip)  in hopes of finally seeing a dream for a functional hand come to life – and were welcomed into the home of one of the original designers of these 3D printed mechanical hands. Dawson’s mom Dawn had contacted Jen, Ivan’s wife, after fellow e-NABLE member and designer behind the Open Hand ProjectJoel Gibbard – gave her information on how to contact us!

One of the goals and hopes of the e-NABLE community – is that we not only provide hands for people in need – but that we really enable these families to learn to maintain their donated devices and to build them themselves. Giving them a fully assembled hand with no knowledge of how to build it themselves -will only enable one child. Teaching them how to make a hand for their child will enable them to eventually teach other parents how to make them or get them excited about making them for others and thus enable many more!


Dawn was very eager to learn how to make these hands for her son and wanted to make sure that she and her husband would know how to repair the hand if it were to break, as well as learn how to make his future upgraded versions as he grows. They decided they wanted to drive the 6 hours to the Owen home so that they could not only be taught how to create these hands themselves – but so that Dawson could participate in assembling his very own 3d printed hand.


She writes:

“We so enjoyed getting to know you! You are such a giving and loving family, to open your house and give your time as a family – for me and my family.

I would like to say that having someone build the hand for us would not have made it as special for us. We really enjoyed being part of it and watching how it goes together. We now see how it works and if there are any issues, we can help fix them or maybe come up with other ideas to make it better down the road. It also helped to bring the family together. The boys really bonded over the hand. Seth wants to have one now! 

Any family that does not build it -is really losing out.

I can not even begin to tell you what this hand has done for all of us. It was amazing to see Dawson share it with a stranger when we were getting gas. (On the way home.) He has never done that before. He does not hide his hand but he does not put it out there for others to see or ask questions. But yesterday, he was like “MOM! Tell her about my hand!” and he showed his hand without and with his new hand. It made me cry.

When we got home – he ran over to the neighbor’s house and was showing the whole family. He then went to play baseball (with a plastic bat and ball) and held it for the first time. That was amazing. He ran in and said “Mom and Dad – come watch this!”

I just can not say thank you enough for the dreams you made come true yesterday – not just for Dawson, but for me and my whole family.”

These are the kind of stories we want to see more of. More families and parents creating these hands for themselves. More people feeling enabled. More people teaching other people how to make them and sharing their knowledge to spread through out the world.

The e-NABLE team is working on a mentorship program – where folks in the community who have made hands already, are signing up to become mentors for others that want to learn how but don’t know where to start or feel like they need more one on one assistance to really properly understand how to make a safe and functional hand for someone.

If you are interested in joining this amazing global movement or if you are interested in learning how to make a hand and want to see about getting matched  with a mentor – please visit our Google+ Group!

Jen and Ivan sent Dawson home with a “My 3D Printed Hand” journal to document his thoughts about his new hand, give the e-NABLE designers feedback on what works and what doesn’t and to make suggestions for them to help make these hands even more functional for the next version!

Dawson not only learned how to assemble his own prosthetic hand (He has a Talon Hand/fingers with a Cyborg Beast Arm!)- but he is excited to be part of the “research” team so that he can help other kids get hands too!

How amazing is that?


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A Boy And His 3D Printed Hand

We caught up with one of our recently e-NABLEd kiddos – Bailey – who gave us some feedback to use to help us make these hands even better in the future! His mom tells us that he went to Summer camp last week and took his hand with him!

Here are a couple of questions we asked Bailey and his very honest answers:

Q: How has your e-NABLE hand helped so far?

A: It helps grip stuff.  I don’t get cold fingers with popsicles! Kids ask me about my “Robot” hand instead of why I am different.

Q: What are some of the things you are using the hand for?

A: I can hold both handlebars on my bike and scooter but my thumb gets in the way sometimes. I use it to hold things and pick up stuff.

Q: What are some of the things you realized are easier to do WITHOUT the hand and why?

A: Writing. The hand works better for big things. Playing my guitar – *it can’t hold my pick. *Climbing trees.

(**Design team…we need a pick hand and a tree climbing hand!)

Q: What would you like to see changed on the hand so that it feels more comfortable, fits better and helps us know how to make it better for other children when we make them a hand?

A: Tighter Grip so maybe I could use it to climb trees!

Q If you could have a hand that didn’t have fingers on it – but had other attachments – what attachments would you want?

A: A hand for holding cards. (Bailey – check out Keegan’s card holding hand design!)

Q: Do you have anything you would like to say to the e-NABLE volunteers who are working hard to make hands for kids who have no fingers?

A: They are doing great! Thank you for my new hand! :)


We also asked his Mom, Dena, a few questions:

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