By Scott J. Grunewald | 3D Printing Industry
When retired pipe fitter Howard Kamarata had a miter saw accident in his woodshop, he lost three of his fingers and was left with only a pinkie and a thumb. Thankfully, that was all he lost but, to someone who made a living with his hands, losing most of one was devastating and sent him into a deep depression, as paying tens of thousands of dollars for prosthetic fingers was not something that Kamarata would have been able to afford.
After being encouraged to go out of the house to a church function with his wife, Kamarata had a chance meeting with Casey Barrett. The young industrial designer had remembered seeing a story about two men who built a partial prosthetic hand for a small boy and thought that he could help. Barrett offered to help and began working on ways to 3D print some prosthetic fingers.
The original designer of the first prosthetic hand, Ivan Owen, had uploaded many of his open source hand designs to Thingiverse, so Barrett had a place to start. The first hand was constructed from a work glove purchased from Home Depot, some high-tension fishing wire, and a handful of screws. The fingers worked wonderfully, but living in Arizona made the glove impractical, so Barrett created a new version that attached the hand plate to medical grade splint material with neoprene padding.
After the success of his 3D printed fingers, Kamarata and Barrett decided that there were other people who’ve lost hands and fingers that could use their help, many of them military veterans. So, they teamed up with RecFX Foundation to help bring free, customized, 3D printed fingers and hand prosthesis to those in need.
Their program is called The Hand Up Prosthetic Projectand their goal is to find others like Kamarata who have lost fingers or a hand and find themselves unable to afford expensive prosthesis. With the help of RecFX, they find someone in need, scan their limb and design the custom, prosthetic components. Once it has been completed and fited, they will upload instructions and the 3D files to Thingiverse so others can print their own or adapt them to suit their own needs.
As for Kamarata’s new hand, Barrett is still perfecting it and has even created new finger prototypes that will have three segments, and they are exploring new flexible 3D printable materials, not only to make Kamarata a better hand, but to explore ways to make anyone who needs one a better prosthesis.
If you lost your hand or fingers and would like some help obtaining a 3D printed prosthesis or if you would like to help by donating either time, materials or money please visit The Hand Up Prosthetic Project to find out how.
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