Tiny Hand from the 3D Printer

We have been working with various 3D print designs since we first acquired our first 3D printer in 2013.  In the beginning, we printed simple shapes and one piece tools in order to learn the software and work with the materials.  The 3D printer is slow, and it is a meticulous process to print any design.  Now, we are able to use this printer to produce several usable prosthetic devices, the most recent of which is a prosthetic hand for a very young patient.  

The original design for this particular prosthetic hand was acquired and then modified over a period of time by our technicians.  The initial model (shown in the bright green) is a standard E-Nable hand - the hand is wrist activated with usable fingers.  Dankmeyer staff members attended an E-Nable conference in September 2014 where they learned how to assemble these prostheses. (That story is further down in this 3D Printing news.)

This design was adjusted using software to create a plan for the first printing effort - with some estimations, since this is all a very new, custom design.  We were seeking to find just the right size for the patient, which takes some creativity as well as trial and error.

The first printing created a device with a palm size reduced from the original E-Nable model, and a modified cuff.  After a fitting with the patient, changes where made for a second printing - the palm was slightly enlarged, and the cuff was redesigned.  This is the version fit at the patient’s next appointment, shown below.

You can see from the ruler that this 3D printed hand is about 6 inches in length, and when shown in comparison to Art’s hand you can see that the hand and fingers of the prosthesis are very small.   (Art Ross, standing, is the lead 3D printer technician on this device; Matt Hierstetter is seated.)

In a separate effort, a few months prior to making this particular device, we created a new prosthesis for a growing young man that resembles a Batman gauntlet.  His first 3D printed device was delivered in December of 2015 - and it was modeled after Iron Man’s gloved hand.  

We are continuing to test the limits of the current printer as we explore the ever expanding technology of 3D printing, with an eye toward acquiring an even better printer in the future. Especially if we can create smiles like this one!




If you are interested in seeing a video we made as an introduction to 3D printing, and one that features our own Art Ross and some of our projects, just click on the video link below.