February 19, 2016

Last year, Colin Consavage asked Santa for a prosthetic hand. Colin was born with his left hand permanently fused into a fist, and at 10 years old, he was ready to do something about it.

But a prosthetic hand can costs thousands of dollars, and Santa wasn’t able to cough up the dough that year. Or, as Colin explains it, “My mom didn’t want to buy one because... money.”

Instead, Clare - Colin’s mom - looked for more creative, cost-effective solutions. She began reading up on alternatives on Facebook. There, she learned about printing custom prosthetics on 3D printers.

Luckily for Colin, he lives near Wilmington, Delaware, which has one of the only libraries in the state with a 3D printer.

Together, Clare and Colin printed out individual parts and pieced them together. Colin finally had his Christmas wish.

“I remember when he picked up the [Pringles can], threw it across the room, and actually shouted ‘Triumph!’” said Clare. “It was so empowering…. Instead of people asking about his hand, people were asking about his prosthetic.”

And it gets better. A group of engineering students heard Colin’s story and signed on to create a custom hand for him. Of course, Colin had some ideas for their design. “I came up with a screwdriver finger, a laser pointer, stuff like that.” The plastic will even change color with the temperature.

Colin sees a future where prosthetic hands and even organs are widely available at the push of a button. It’s a world of possibility, where kids like Colin can build their dream hand or even lungs. It looks as though Chuck Hull, the inventor of the 3D printer, has a new fan.

We found Colin through our friends at WNYC’s The Takeaway. They’ve been highlighting some of America’s greatest inventions. Want to learn more? Here's a link to that series.

Colin Consavage, Prosthetics, 3D printing, Sci and Tech

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