Last summer, Josh McKenna, a fifth class student in St Patrick’s BNS received a prosthetic hand from a group called e-NABLE. Josh was the toast of his classmates after becoming the recipient of Ireland's first 3D printed hand. Josh, a 10-year-old from Portarlington, was born with just a thumb on his right hand but his life has been transformed by a prosthetic hand printed by a team of students and staff from Institute of Technology Tallaght. In December 2015, staff and students from IT Tallaght brought their 3D printer to Josh’s school in Co Laois for a very special visit. The purpose of the visit was to show Josh, and the boys in his class, an actual 3D printer at work. The boys from St Patrick’s then used what they learned from the visit to enter their project - ‘How does this grab you? Look at a 3D printed hand -How does it work?’ - into the 2016 RDS Primary Science Fair.

Printed and delivered four prosthetic hands and three prosthetic arms to young recipients in Ireland and the UK

The group from IT Tallaght, 3D Assist Tallaght, was set up in January 2015 by lecturer Robbie O’Connor, and is made up of staff and students from the institute. So far, they have printed and delivered four prosthetic hands and three prosthetic arms to young recipients in Ireland and the UK. They have recently delivered their second custom-made prosthetic hand for a local eight-year-old and are in the process of finishing a Frozen themed arm for a local five-year-old girl. Prior to setting up 3D Assist Tallaght, O’Connor had manufactured a number of hands for the US-based charity e-NABLE. It is a group of individuals from all over the world who use their 3D printers to create free 3D printed hands and arms for those in need of an upper limb assistive device. The e-NABLE charity was set up in 2013 by John Schull of Rochester Institute of Technology, with the aim of matching up people who had a requirement for a prosthetic hand with people who had access to 3D printers. At the moment there are more than 1,500 volunteers in the network and approximately half of these are manufacturing hands. “The hand designs are all open source designs and, although basic in principle, can be very useful to the recipient. The more common recipient is quite young, ranging from three years to 13 years. The design requires that the user has some movement in their wrist to activate the hand for it to close the fingers. For the arm prosthetics, the recipient bends their elbow to activate the fingers. [caption id="attachment_26749" align="alignright" width="300"]aaa3d3 Five-year-old Maddison’s hand[/caption]

Amniotic Band Syndrome

“To date, most our recipients have been born with a condition called Amniotic Band Syndrome which causes the fingers or hand not to develop in the womb. Although, more recently, as the group has developed, we’re really happy to be helping out with some general assistive device projects from our links with the Central Remedial Clinic in Clontarf,” said O’Connor. As part the IT Tallaght group’s collaboration with the Central Remedial Clinic in Clontarf it has started a number of final year engineering projects that are organised to provide specific assistive devices based on requirements of students attending the CRC clinics. “The group has been a really rewarding initiative from both the staff and students' perspectives. The level of enthusiasm from the students is infectious and has been a real boost for both the academic viewpoint but also for strengthening our community links with IT Tallaght.” [caption id="attachment_26751" align="alignright" width="168"]aaa3d5 Ashton from Carrickfergus tries out his new 'Star Wars' arm[/caption] Each prosthetic hand is selected and scaled to the specific recipient. It can take more than a week to print a typical hand and another half a day to assemble it. All the staff and students are donating their time while the school of engineering in IT Tallaght donates all materials. It has been estimated that each hand cost less than €10 to make. The age profile of the typical recipient has been a significant key to the success of this programme. At a young age the typical child wants their prosthetic hand to have a theme such as a robot hand or a Frozen arm and the fact that these devices are 3D printed opens up the ability of the maker to make the super hero themed hand in the colours that the child wants. As the hand designs have developed there have been more adult recipients and the designs are becoming more functional. [caption id="attachment_26750" align="alignright" width="225"]Eight-year-old Conor, from Dun Laoghaire, with his new hand Eight-year-old Conor, from Dun Laoghaire, with his new hand[/caption] The group have received a recent boost in the form of a donated 3D printer from an Irish-based children’s charity, called Santa Strike Force. The donation will allow the group to continue printing without having to compete for access to IT Tallaght’s 3D printers. It will also allow the group to expand their primary school visit programme. To date, staff and students have visited five primary schools where more than a dozen hands have been assembled from kits. The US e-NABLE group have established links with international clinics that will take these hands and allocate them to recipients. The IT Tallaght group have made some initial contacts with a view to finding a suitable local source for its hands made by the primary students.