e-NABLE hand

This is an amazing time to be alive. All sorts of new technologies have converged to make the impossible possible. In this particular case, 3D printing, computer-aided design, and digital communications have resulted in a worldwide organization of volunteers who create prosthetic hands for children, each one custom-built for an individual recipient.

The group is called Enabling the Future, and it grew out of the efforts of two people in the USA and South Africa who wanted to create a mechanical hand for a child in South Africa. Those original plans were made available for free to anyone who wanted them, and the movement began. Now e-Nable hands are being printed by volunteers around the world. High school and middle school students are printing and assembling hands in school labs, and giving them to people in their community. Scout troops take on projects to build hands for children in third-world countries. Professors, physical therapists, families, and hobbyists are all getting involved to apply technology to solve a problem, one patient at a time.

In addition to helping a child pick up and hold objects, this movement is indicative of a much larger change. Technology is literally putting innovation in the hands of individuals and groups that did not have access to it in the past. The group combines their experience and creativity to help advance the concepts, and digital communications makes instant collaboration not just possible but affordable. Participants don’t have to wait for something to be printed and distributed; they can freely exchange ideas right now with few barriers. The wearable Health Tech movement in general is about generating and sharing information at the individual level, for the benefit of both individuals and communities as a whole.