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Two Students 3-D Print Prosthetic Hand in the Nest

In collaboration with volunteer-based program e-NABLE, Eliza Bienstock ’18 and Abigail Enes ’18 created a prosthetic hand using the 3-D printer in The Nest, Andover’s Makerspace, located in the basement of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL).

Since January, Bienstock and Enes have worked to print a prototype hand to send to e-NABLE, a network of volunteers from around the world who use 3-D printing to create prosthetic hands for those in need of an upper limb assistive device.

Before arriving at Andover as a new Lower this past fall, Bienstock read an article in “The New York Times” about the creation of cheap, 3-D-printed prosthetic hands, sparking her interest in the program.

“I came to Andover and saw that in The [Nest] you could use the 3-D printers whenever you want without asking anyone. So then I realized that Andover would be a really good ally with… e-NABLE,” said Bienstock.

Bienstock and Enes initially struggled to print and assemble each part of the hand. Through a process of trial and error, the pair managed to overcome the difficulties and were able to create the hand within a week. Their faculty advisor, Claudia Wessner, Makerspace Coordinator, oversaw the process and helped them obtain the materials needed to complete the project, like screws and elastic.

“[Bienstock and Enes] were both so excited and passionate about the project and truly embodied the design thinking mindset that we like to encourage in The [Nest]… They have done such a great job with it and have come up with so many innovative ideas to improve the design as well,” wrote Wessner in an email to The Phillipian.

Hoping to promote the usage of the 3-D printing resources available on campus, Bienstock and Enes plan to launch a 3-D printing club that focuses on community service in the spring.

“We just kind of wanted to do something and make a difference in the community, and I wanted to be involved in community service, but I didn’t love everything that was on the list. I wanted to do something that I felt would have an impact on other people, and I thought this was a good idea,” said Enes.

Bienstock said, “It’s going to be community service-based and I guess it will also be good for people who are interested in the printing, but the idea is hopefully we’ll be able to meet some of the kids that accept the hands, and e-NABLE would help us do that, too.”

e-NABLE connected Bienstock and Enes with the software to 3-D print the prosthetic hand and will also eventually connect the pair with the individual in need of the hand. Bienstock and Enes plan to ship the hand to their assigned recipient at some point in the coming weeks.

“After e-NABLE checks over our prototype, they will assign us to either a family in need or a prosthetics store in a third-world country. The stores operate similarly to shoe stores, where a person can come in and try on the prosthetics to find one that fits and functions best for them. Then, they can buy it on the spot,” wrote Bienstock in an email to The Phillipian.

While the cost of prosthetic hands can be upward to $100,000, e-NABLE reports that the cost of 3-D printing a hand is less than $30.

“We’re also interested in trying to pair with a hospital so that people in accidents can take home a prosthetic immediately. While our hands would probably be a temporary solution, getting more advanced prosthetics can take months and are extremely expensive. Our 3-D hands would be immediate and free,” said Bienstock.

“[e-NABLE is] also kind of guiding us in terms of in what direction we could take this project within [Andover],” she continued.

Enes said, “[e-NABLE is] trying to help us expand the project [and] maybe do something they haven’t been able to do yet with 3-D printers and third-world countries. So we’re working with them to see where they want to take it.”