All posts by Daniel Davies

Girl throws first pitch at Baltimore Orioles game thanks to 3D printed hand

3D printing technology has been used to make an affordable, functioning prosthetic hand for a 4-year-old girl suffering from Poland syndrome.

Hailey Dawson was born with the birth defect, which causes incomplete development of hand and chest muscles.

Her mother, Yong Dawson, was initially told by healthcare professionals that a prosthetic device would cost tens of thousands of dollars – just for the first prosthesis. As Hailey grew, Dawson would have to incur that expense repeatedly as Hailey needed to be refitted with larger hands.

So the family sought the expertise of their local university to see if they could provide an alternative.

Brendan O’Toole, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Katherine Lau, a Rutgers biomedical engineering student, took up the challenge and spent the summer working on designs appropriate for the 4-year-old girl.

Lau explains that the project was more than just a summer research project. She describes it as a life changing experience that confirmed her choice of career. “I want to be a biomedical engineer to improve the lives of others,” said Lau. “That summer, I got to see firsthand what my work can do.”

Lau’s engineering team knew of public domain designs for 3D-printed hands, such as Robohand and Enable, but their challenge was to adapt these designs to fit the young girl’s size and accommodate the specific nature of her deformity.

Featured image courtesy of Keith Allison. Image courtesy of Aaron Mayes, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Featured image courtesy of Keith Allison. Image courtesy of Aaron Mayes, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Working with Hailey throughout the summer, they fashioned a hand with fingers that grasped objects when Hailey bent her wrist forward.

“Hailey was so confident,” Lau said. “Even though she has these deformities, she didn’t think twice about it. She just said, ‘this is my special hand,’ and she showed it off to everyone.”

Lau and O’Toole were able to make the necessary adjustments to make a suitable prosthetic hand for Hailey, and this past summer she was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game using her 3D-printed hand.

Hailey’s story is another example of the life-changing development in prosthetic technology.

The news follows last week’s announcement by DARPA that it has created a prosthetic hand that’s allowed a 28-year-old to ‘feel’ the object they were touching. The hand, which is directly connected to his brain, also allowed him to identify which finger was being touched.

Factor magazine 18: The future of energy

We’re all well aware that our current process of generating energy isn’t going to last forever, so after focusing on an array of energy-guzzling technologies in our previous issues, this time we’re turning our attention to the alternatives available.

Issue 18 of the always free Factor Magazine – out now– asks what really lies ahead for power. From the possible future of fusion technology to the world’s first artificial, energy-generating tidal lagoon, in this issue we look at some of the most exciting energy sources on the horizon.

We consider who is driving the shift from remote, vast and, sometimes, inefficient power stations to smaller methods of electricity generation located throughout our towns and cities, and we ask whether this can ever be any more than a niche movement.

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Because we know you’re all very busy people, we’ll also look at the tech that is using our own bodies to produce power. We wouldn’t want lack of power to cause you to miss out on any of Factor, after all.

In a short space of time, solar power has gone from a fringe tech to one of the most important forms of energy generation in the world, with record rate of light capture reported. In light of this – get it? –  we investigate whether solar storage technology can keep up.

The way we power missions to space hasn’t really changed since the 1940s, but to allow for more explorative research, space travel would have to utilise lighter, faster and cheaper methods of propulsion. We’ll look at how the concept of space travel is being rewritten by power.

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As the world bids to combat climate change, we ask whether bioenergy and innovative plant-based power sources can be a key part of our future power mix.

Plus we hear from Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales about encrypting the internet, government spying and his transition from technologist to quasi diplomat.

As well as this there’s all the latest newsreviews and some Back to the Future inspired views, in Issue 18 of Factor Magazine – out now on iPad and online.