Eighteen months ago I watched a video on Youtube that changed my life (see here). A young boy named Liam in South Africa, who was born without a right hand, was using a prosthetic hand that was 3D printed so he could be a normal, happy kid. His smiling face and determination to make it work made me realize the power of both 3D printing and crowdsourced solutions. I quickly became a volunteer with e-NABLE, a newly formed group of volunteers determined to make a difference in people’s lives. The ability to change a child’s life with $30 worth of plastic and $30 of hardware has driven me to love all things 3D printed. It’s one of the reasons I’m a senior account executive with Accucode today.

This weekend I attended SX Create at the SXSW exhibit hall in Austin, Texas and finally got to meet some of my fellow volunteers in person. I even got to meet Jon Schull, a research scientist at Rochester Institute of Technology and one of the founders of e-NABLE. What started with just a handful of people, has now grown into a 4,400+ strong base of volunteers with six hand designs, two arm designs and a myoelectric arm design using motors and Arduino controllers. Thanks to donations and altruistic volunteers, more than 900 hands have been custom designed, tested, modified, printed, assembled and delivered free of charge. (Donations can be made at www.enablingthefuture.org/donate. A $50 donation will give a kid a hand… literally). If you read the story of Robert Downey Jr. presenting an Ironman prosthetic hand to young Alex Pring, you have already seen e-NABLE in action. The arm was made by Limbitless Solutions, a volunteer group started by Albert Manero, a University of Central Florida engineering Ph.D. student, and longtime e-NABLE member (more at their Facebook page).

It wasn’t the first time a child got a special gift from a superhero. On January 28, 2015, six young Super Heroes joined forces with e-NABLE and the cast of Marvel Universe LIVE!, in Dallas, Texas… to help save us all from certain doom at the hands of evil Super Villains! The cast members were humbled by the ability to spend a few hours assembling the prosthetics themselves and presenting them to the kids. At the SXSW show last weekend, I got to see the first 3D prints from plastic filament made from 100% recycled 2-liter soda bottles. So now, instead of filling landfills with non-biodegradable plastic, we can use that garbage to make a working prosthetic hand or arm. So can disruptive 3D printing technology make a difference? It already has for the past several years, in more than 900 children’s lives and more than 4,400+ volunteers lives. Find out more about how 3D printing can make a difference by contacting Accucode’s 3D Division.

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