November 29, 2016
Quality of life is a phrase that gets tossed around, encompassing everything from improved workflow to more comfortable car seats. The flexibility and power offered by additive manufacturing (AM) make the technology a natural partner to quality of life improvements. The power to create nearly anything you can think of offers improved quality of life to engineer and consumers alike.
In some cases a quality of life improvement is easily observed, without delving into possibilities. For Sarah Valentiner, quality of life was improved through 3D printing with the creation of a prosthetic hand designed specifically to enable the 12-year-old’s violinist’s playing.
Valentiner was born missing her right hand. While she already possessed a functional prosthetic, thanks to earlier efforts by the Shriners Club, it didn’t allow the fine control she needed to play her violin. The search for an improvement led her and her parents to e-NABLE, a group dedicated to constructing prosthetic hands using 3D printing.
e-NABLE was able to put her in contact with Federico Sciammarella, associate professor of mechanical engineering, at Northern Illinois University (NIU). Eager to assist, Sciammarella passed on the information to a promising engineering student named Oluseun Taiwo.
“It was a great opportunity to let him use the skills he has been learning in the classroom. It allowed him to unleash the inquisitive ability that engineers develop,” said Sciammarella. “It was a very practical project, but one with a great impact.”
Working with Valentiner, Taiwo was able to work through a number of iterations of the new prosthetic before they produced the final product. Valentiner’s new prosthetic is designed specifically for use with the violin, and features a snap-fit part that secures the bow in place. The completed prosthetic was printed on a 3D Systems Sinterstation 2500 Plus.
“When I started in engineering I figured I’d just get my degree and get a job,” said Taiwo. “This changed me. It gave me goals. I’ve found what I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to design and build objects that make life better for others. One of my professors always tells me ‘Do something that matters.’ This is one of those things.”
Below you’ll find a video about the prosthetic.