New Brunswick

Fredericton group using 3D printers to make prosthetics

Medical aid to Haiti has been made much easier, thanks to a Fredericton group now using 3D printers to make affordable prosthetics.

Haitian girl, who can no longer use her hand after being badly burned, receives first prototype

Medical aid to Haiti has been made much easier, thanks to a Fredericton group now using 3D printers to make affordable prosthetics.

A prosthetic hand was created with a 3D printer for $20. By comparison, most prosthetics cost thousands of dollars to make. (Toronto Public Library)
Their first prototype was delivered last week — an artificial hand.

The prosthetic was given to a young girl, named Jean, who lives in northern Haiti. She can no longer use her hand, after being badly burned.

Colleen O'Connell runs a group called Team Canada Healing Hands, which delivered the hand to the girl.

“Well, I still can't quite wrap my head around how 3D printing works, where you can take anything you can imagine and create it,” she said.

The average prosthetic can cost thousands of dollars, while the 3D version cost only $20.

Anne Chaisson, a family medicine resident at Dalhousie University, whose family owns a printing shop, 3D Print Works in Woodstock, first came up with the idea.

She travelled to Haiti with O'Connell for a course during medical school. Once she met Jean, she knew she wanted to find a way to help her.

Jean, a young girl in northern Haiti, received the first prototype of a prosthetic hand made by a 3D printer. (Submitted)
“We've been working at this for about six months now,” she said. “And just knowing this little girl and her personality, she's very outgoing. Just the potential she could have with this device, it was emotional to see everything come together for her.”

Chaisson says the learning curve was steep, but with some patience and help, she learned how to use a 3D printer.

The hand was made using a design created by the volunteer group E-nabling the future.

She plans on making more prosthetic hands for Jean as she grows.