Alberta students help send 3D-printed prosthetic hands to Third World kids

Click to play video: 'Calgary printing company helping create prosthetics for developing countries' Calgary printing company helping create prosthetics for developing countries
WATCH ABOVE: A Calgary 3D printing company is really testing out the potential to bring complex digital designs into physical form. As Sarah Offin reports, the owner is teaming up with global non-for-profit and Alberta students to create something really useful – Jan 4, 2016

A Calgary 3D printing company is joining some Alberta high school students and a global non-profit to create a one-of-kind product.

“As they lift that – now they have the ability to have fingers and joints to pick stuff up,” said Colin Pischke, moving the fingers of a black plastic
prosthetic hand he created at home.

Pischke started Print Your Mind 3D a couple of years ago. Since then, he has used 3D printing technology to create all kinds of requests for various companies.

“It lays down the plastic one very thin layer on top of each other to recreate your digital file in physical form,” Pischke said.

Colin Pischke created a prosthetic hand for a child amputee using his 3D printer. He’s now showing some Alberta high school students how to do the same. Sarah Offin

His newest creation, however, is a marvel of plastic pieces tied and fitted together to create a prosthetic hand.

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This is the first of what Pischke hopes will be hundreds of custom 3D-printed limbs sent to child amputees in developing countries. But he’s not doing it alone.

Global non-profit organization e-NABLE started the initiative. They make their prosthetic designs available online and match prosthetics with child amputees.

“They’ll send us a photo of what limb they have with a measuring device and with that image you custom scale the components to fit their individual hand,” Pischke said.

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Pischke is also now helping mentor a few Alberta students taking on the challenge: printing and building their own prosthetics.

“I just thought it was a really great idea to help out someone else in the world and give them a better life,” said Lucas Whitfield, a Grade 12 student in Edmonton.

He’s enrolled in a program called Innovate, an option course that enables students to create their own learning experiences based on their interests and receive high school credits.

“It’s pretty cool how you can create all these different things and the possibilities are really just endless,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield started using the 3D printer at his school this year, but now plans to pursue a career in 3D printing and graphic design.

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“He’s just the kid there that didn’t know what he was doing and all of a sudden we introduced him to 3D and he just excelled,” said Whitfield’s teacher, Aaron Dublenko.

It takes almost 15 hours to print all the pieces and several more hours to assemble them into a prosthetic hand. But it costs only about $100 for each life-changing limb.

“When you think of traditional prosthetics you’re usually talking thousands of dollars. This technology really enables you to make cost-effective pieces of equipment that you would never would otherwise be able to do,” Pischke said.

Pischke is now fundraising $3,000 for a live 3D-printing event to be held at City Hall in Calgary. The idea is to bring students together to print and build 25 to 30 hands that can all be sent abroad.

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