EnableUC prints 3D prosthetic hand for children

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A student group at the University of Cincinnati is using 3D printers to create assistive devices for patients in need. 

The devices created by EnableUC are free to patients thanks to a grant from the College of Engineering Alumni Association, which funded the 3D printer and the cost of creating the devices.

Over the last year, EnableUC has gifted 32 devices to patients in the area. 

“There’s a need that’s unaddressed and 3D printing can fill that need,” said Jacob Knorr, president of EnableUC and a fifth-year biomedical engineering student. 

While the group is looking to expand to address other medical needs, they began their initiative with the primary goal of creating prosthetic hands for pediatric patients in the area.

“Children don’t get prosthetics because they’re too expensive and they grow out of them too quickly,” said Knorr.

While partnering with local physicians and other universities helps to increase the group’s connection with patients in need, word of mouth has played a large role in connecting the group with patients.

This was the case with EnableUC’s secretary, who was integral in connecting the group with T.J. McGinnis, her younger brother’s schoolmate at Rock Hill Middle School and the group’s most recent beneficiary.

When taking a guided tour of campus with EnableUC’s secretary, McGinnis was particularly interested in the engineering facilities and 3D printer, and was even able to assemble his assistive device himself.

Convincing insurance companies to cover the cost of prosthetics can prove challenging, creating a need for more affordable alternatives.

“3D printing allows us to do something patient specific but also very cost effective. We can provide a functional hand to a child for less than twenty dollars, whereas the alternative to that would be tens of thousands of dollars,” said Knorr.

In addition, the group has created assistive devices that help patients suffering from arthritis or the effects of traumatic brain injuries.

These devices aim to assist in everyday tasks that some may take for granted, such as holding the phone or drinking independently.

This expansion is due in part to their collaboration with physicians in the area as well as other universities’ occupational therapy programs.

Although they are dedicated to serving those in the Cincinnati area, EnableUC hopes to strengthen ties with more medical institutions in hopes of having an impact on global health, according to Knorr.

The group recognizes that there are areas such as Guatemala or Palestine that are largely medically underserved, and where 3D printing assistive devices can benefit the community on a larger scale.  

Having recently celebrated their one-year anniversary as a student organization, EnableUC has seen a large amount of growth in student participation since its inception.

“Everybody is really passionate about what they do,” said Knorr.

The group is not limited to only biomedical engineering or science related fields of study, but is welcoming to all students of all fields and interests. 

“There is always an area in our organization for any student,” says Knorr.