Students from Summit Christian Academy in Cedar Park didn’t need to ask "when are we going to use this in real life?" when they used a 3-D printer to make a classmate a prosthetic hand.
Two weeks ago, fifth-grade students spent the day working on computers and manipulating designs to create printed prosthetic hands. Students in the engineering program put the pieces together to create a functioning product.
Eighteen-year-old Paris Varnier got to test out a finished hand. She knows firsthand what its like to go without a left hand as she wasn’t born with one. Using this 3-D model allows her to flex her wrist, which opens and closes the hand. Gripping is something this hand is capable of doing and is something Varnier says is extremely important in a prosthetic.
“She commented that before when she was swinging there was nothing to grasp on and she couldn’t grab the chain,” Assistant Headmaster Shelley Jordan said.
The students aren’t stopping with Varnier. They want to make hands for anyone in the community who needs them. They’ve already received requests from five people whose needs range from a hand to a few fingers.
Nicole Cooper, technology teacher at Summit Christian Academy, said the school received the printer in August and searched for projects they could do with students when they came across this idea.
“This was one of the bigger projects that came up when we researched this,” Cooper said.
A benefit to what the students are doing is definitely cost, an obstacle that stands in the way for many in need. A prosthetic hand can potentially reach costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on functionality. According to Cooper,
the material costs for what they are creating cost $25 per hand. This money is coming out of the school’s curriculum budget.
As of now students are just focusing on hands, but they may eventually expand to create other body parts. Printing can take anywhere from minutes to hours. For example, it takes just over 20 minutes for a finger to be printed, not counting the time spent warming up the printer and cooling off the product.