Students Produce 3-D Printed Hand for Kids

Students Produce 3-D Printed Hand for Kids

Over the course of the school year, a group of Upper School students spent their lunchtimes creating a prototype 3-D printed prosthetic hand for children. Juniors Samuel Jung, Aneesh Kulkarni, and Kabir Patel, with help from classmates Aren Patel and Daniel Deller, produced the e-Nable Phoenix V2 prosthetic hand. 

The work was conducted in partnership with the e-Nable organization as a trial for children in need of prosthetic hands. The hand is designed for simple tasks such as grabbing, pulling; and pushing; wrist muscles can be used to control the fingers.

“The base parts of the hand, such as the wrist, palm, and individual fingers, were 3D printed using Polylactic Acid (PLA) filament,” Kulkarni said. “The hand uses orthodontic elastics to provide tension and flexibility in the fingers, and strings that connect the wrist and fingers allow the user to flex the hand and contract the fingers.”

Tim Hipp, Upper School computer science faculty member and Technology Student Association adviser, proposed the project as a way to emphasize service. “This year, I made a significant shift in my pedagogy to test less and instead adopt a service learning/project-based learning component,” he said. “I emphasized using their technology skills for good, not just for fun or profit. I asked my students in theTechnology Student Association to do the same: technology for good. So, instead of printing out toys or puzzles or fidget spinners, I pushed them to join the eNable community and earn certification to help print prosthetics for those in need.”

Over months of trial and error, the students worked together to overcome challenges and discover solutions. “We started this hobby project just to try something new and interesting this year, although we had no idea how we’d approach creating the hand, much less assemble one,” Jung said. “Our various challenges during the manufacturing process included navigating the 3D printer, learning about the elasticity of various plastics to print a successful hand, and resolving scaling issues between the different parts to make them ‘fit’ together.” 

The students’ prototype hand passed inspection by e-Nable, so they are now official providers, Hipp said. “This is a great group of students who did this work out of their sincere interest. They did not do this for service hours, extra credit, or profit,” he said. As seniors next year, the students plan to make more of the prosthetic hands, and Mr. Hipp hopes to expand Woodward’s current 3D printing capabilities to make this technology more accessible to all students interested in learning about it. “Our success in the creation of this hand will allow us to make more in the near future,” Patel said.