GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (AP) — Fox Valley Technical College is taking part in a worldwide project that uses a 3-D printer to create mechanical prosthetic hands.
Last fall, the college's Fab Lab Club signed on to the e-Nable project, Post-Crescent Media (http://post.cr/1Ly51YB ) reported. In the spring, students completed work on a plastic hand for a 6-year-old girl from Pittsburgh and they will start a new project this fall.
The project's website connects volunteers to people seeking prosthetic hands.
"It's only been around for two years, and already there are thousands of people around the world working on it," Jeff Laurich, a mechanical design instructor at Fox Valley Technical College.
Designs are shared on the Internet and those involved in e-Nable offer their creations for free. Volunteers can print a hand for about $50 worth of materials, while professionally made hands cost more to create and are sold for up to $12,000.
The printed hands aren't equivalent but can handle many simple tasks, including carrying light objects, riding a bike or playing catch, according to the group. And the hands are especially helpful for children.
"There's no way an insurance company is going to pay for a hand that a child is going to grow out of," mechanical design student Andrew Krautkramer said.
Volunteers with the project form hand components layer-by-layer inside a 3-D printer and then assembled the pieces. The hand is strapped to the user's arm with Velcro and strings running through the fingers act as tendons, allowing the fingers to bend and the wrist to flex.
The Fab Lab Club hopes to improve the hands it creates as the project continues.
Information from: Post-Crescent Media, http://www.postcrescent.com