Conference connects prosthetists, families to 3-D-printed prostheses

BALTIMORE — Children and their families, prosthetists and volunteers all gathered to create 3-D-printed prosthetic hands at the first Prosthetists Meet 3-D Printers Conference at Johns Hopkins Hospital, here.

Hosted by e-NABLE, many of the event’s attendees were pediatric transradial amputees who had never worn a prosthesis. Each child was able to leave with a 3-D printed hand designed by e-NABLE volunteers that they got to help assemble themselves.

“The purpose of this conference is to help us take some methods and technologies and attitudes that we have developed in a totally unofficial online community, and begin to bring them to the attention and get the collaboration of the medical and professional community,” Jon Schull, e-NABLE founder and research scientist at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said in an interview with O&P Business News.

Schull said the input and aid from O&P professionals is needed to help the 3-D printed prostheses movement in its future growth.

Christian Miller (left) and son Hayden put together a prosthetic hand for Hayden with parts supplied by e-NABLE during the “Prosthetists Meet 3-D Printers” conference at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Source: Alexander A.

“We have developed without really significant training [but are working] probably without a great deal of knowledge that professional orthotists and prosthetists have…I think they should understand that we are well aware of the difference between inexpensive, low-cost, almost disposable prostheses, and very expensive, very durable, professionally fitted prostheses. It is like the difference between peanut butter and caviar. There are a lot of kids who would rather have peanut butter, and when they grow up they will probably develop the taste and be able to afford the caviar. We would like to make sure that the full range of options is available.”

The event included a wide range of speakers, including Albert Chi, PhD, a Johns Hopkins trauma surgeon, as well as research scientists, e-NABLE volunteers, an economist and a representative from Hanger Clinic, one of the event’s sponsors.

According to Schull, the next step is to get more of the O&P community involved with 3-D printing. Prosthetists can learn more by visiting, where they will find case studies and stories about 3-D printed prostheses as well as ways to join the e-NABLE Google+ community.

“That is where we roll up our sleeves, we approve designs, give each other advice and we seek advice. We would really love to have them join us [on Google+],” Schull said. —by Amanda Alexander

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