3D printing has come a long way these days. There is a printer for just about anything you can think of making. Want to print a jet engine? Give Boeing a call. Maybe Space is more your thing. NASA has more 3d printing projects in the works than just about anyone else. Just about anyone that manufactures things has jumped into the 3d printing game. I find it funny because it was a movement started by the DIY crowd tired of not having easy ways to make prototypes for idea’s they had. The rag tag engineers that couldn’t afford CNC time and materials to make 1 prototype let alone a production run. Ten years ago if you wanted to make something you needed a whole machine shop just to make one commercial grade part worth taking to someone to get a patent and market. Now days you can flesh out a whole Prototype in hours with a computer and a desk top 3D Printer. Most people refer to it as a second Industrial Revolution.
I disagree, Only because last time around it was something commerce driven. Last time it was big business squeezing out the little guy. 3D printing is the little guy squeezing out big business. So it is funny that they so readily adopt something that is quickly making most business models obsolete. By now I’m sure you are wondering, What’s the point? The point is this. You see headlines about 3d printing every day. What headline shows up the least? And almost never shows up attached to a small time business or entrepreneur? 3D Printing in the medical field. I’m not crying conspiracy. Just the facts. 3D printing is all over the medical world. You just don’t hear about it as often. Part of that is cause by the fact that the amazing things 3D printing is doing is just hard to film for a puff piece. Part is also the fact that wheeling someone out on camera missing limbs isn’t cool either. The biggest part is money.
Prosthesis manufactures for years have been making money hand over fist for Prosthetic limbs that aren’t nearly as good as some of the 3d printed limbs at less than 1/4th the cost.
For patients without health insurance, a prosthetic arm typically costs less than $5,000 for a purely cosmetic arm, up to $10,000 for a functional prosthetic arm that ends in a split hook, and up to $20,000-$100,000 or more for an advanced myoelectric arm, controlled by muscle movements, with a functioning artificial hand.
In contrast a 3D printed Arm that isn’t just cosmetic can be had for as low as 50$ and most of that is material costs.
This of course is just one example of 3d printing helping people. The thing is we see articles and videos like this and think. “3d printing is amazing.” What most of us don’t think is. “How can I do that or how can I help” I see people post pic’s and videos of toys and bobbles that they printed off just because they were board. I’m just as bad about it as everyone else so this isn’t a guilt trip. It’s just a fact.Most of us just aren’t built to think that way. So here is where I’d like to make the case to donate a little time and plastic to a good cause. I live in the US and the healthcare here Sucks. The US healthcare system see’s the sick like a cash crop. We have some of the best medical facilities in the world but if you can’t afford it you are SOL. It’s so bad most people avoid healthcare like the plagues it is supposed to fight all because they would rather be sick than spend a life time in debt because of a chest cold. Don’t even mention Gov healthcare. It’s a joke. The only way to change this sort of thing is to hit them where it hurts. We can’t make our own medicines and practicing medicine without an education is both stupid and illegal. The only thing left is assistance devices like prosthesis. Not only are we helping make people whole again but we are hurting an industry that takes advantage of people in some of the worst situations. This is the type of thing 3d printing is good for. Giving options to people without money for more expensive resources.
Here are some resources I would like to put the spotlight on.
The first site is one of my favorites Enabling the Future Or E-nable. The work all over the world helping people make there lives whole again.
enablingthefuture.org is the personal, privately-run website of Jennifer Owen. Jen is the wife of Ivan Owen, who co-created the first 3D printed hand for a child in South Africa and released the files open source so that anyone, anywhere in the world could take those files and print a hand for themselves or someone in need.
She has been a volunteer and participant in the field of open-source, 3D printed prosthetic hands for the past 4 years. Along the way, she has sought to highlight and document stories from the e-NABLE Community of volunteers on the topic of low-cost prosthetics from around the world, as well as to create an information resource for people interested in learning more about the history, design & fabrication of these devices.
The next is Haven-Labs The are more focused on Prosthesis for Vets.
We are a team of engineers that has come together to improve the lives of our nation’s veterans who have dedicated themselves to protecting our freedom.” Our inspiration is the blood, sweat, and tears that have been sacrificed for us to live without the burden of danger. Havenlabs aspires to help disabled veterans across the nation by donating custom 3D prosthetic limbs. “We would not be where we are today without the generosity of others.” We believe that our veterans, after their extraordinary sacrifices, should not have to experience the financial burden of having to purchase prosthetic devices.
This is a topic we should discuss more. If you have any thoughts you’s like to share swing by our forum. Maybe you know someone in need of something like this. Share your story.