British Columbia

Victoria 3D hand printers in the running for $750K Google innovation prize

The Victoria Hand Project makes prosthetic hands for people across the world. Now, they're one of ten Canadian finalists in a Google impacts competition with a grand prize of $750,000.

The Victoria Hand Project makes prosthetic hands for people across the world

The Victoria Hand Project, providing prosthetic limbs to people in need, is now in the running for a Google Impact award. (Victoria Hand Project)

A Victoria non-profit that delivers 3D-printed prosthetic hands to people in need across the world is in contention for a major award.

The Victoria Hand Project, an organization dedicated to making prosthetic hands more accessible in developing countries, is one of ten Canadian finalists for Google's Impact Challenge. The competition awards groups that can overcome social challenges through technology and offers a grand prize of $750,000.

Nikolai Dechev, the leader of the project, says the group would ramp up production if they were to be selected as the winner.

"We have five existing countries that we work with right now, [and] we've already delivered 70 prostheses," said Dechev. "With the Google grant, we'd expand to five more. and ... we would deliver 750 prostheses over three years."

A helping hand

The organization currently works in Nepal, Guatemala, Haiti, Cambodia, and Ecuador. They use a 3D printer to develop prostheses that are fit for residents who have lost their limb, or were born without one.

Dechev says they work in countries whose health care centres are under-funded.

"One of the problems throughout the world — for example in Haiti or Guatemala — [is that] they've lost the health care capacity [to make prosthetics]."

"[Prosthetists] have left. There are no trained professionals like there are in North America to do this," he added.

Dechev says using the 3D printer technology to create the prosthetics is cost and resource effective, making it more accessible to low income families. Users are able to control the devices using a harness that is connected to their shoulder.

Dechev says the devices give users the opportunity to perform a wide range of physical tasks, and even have psychological benefits.

"The impacts are a wide range, [from] better feelings about body appearance and more confidence ... to actually doing tasks that they're literally tickled about being able to finally do something they've wanted to do for years."

With files from CBC's All Points West

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Victoria 3D hand printers vye for Google Innovation prize