3D Printing and Prosthetics are Breaking Down Barriers Around The World

Helping Hands in Myanmar

Jason Bender is a certified prosthetist with degrees in both mechanical engineering and prosthetics and orthotics who has a heart for the limb difference community in Myanmar, where he has been serving since 2014. He envisions “A hand that blends both [a] cosmetic[ally] looking hand but [also] function[s] better than some of the passive hands or things that look like a hand but don’t actually move”.While the United States has the resources to make prosthetics more accessible to the members of the limb difference community, getting these resources in countries like Myanmar can be difficult. “In most of the world”, Bender says, “you either get a metal hook or [a] type of passive hand”.

The Hintha Hand

In his journey to design a more effective prosthesis for a lower cost, Jason discovered 3D printing. Using his skills in engineering and design, he has been using this technology to develop “The Hintha Hand”, a modular prosthesis that can be customized to fit the needs of those who use it. The biggest difference between the Hintha Hand and most 3D printed prosthetics is the addition of an opposable thumb. This design is revolutionary because as Jason mentioned: “[In] most of the current 3D printed hands, you only have one grip to choose from, which is all the fingers closing at once”. Using a mechanical assembly resembling a saddle joint (the joint found in human thumbs) the Hintha Hand can take on several different holding positions. “The idea here is that you can get a grip for carrying a basket, a grip for picking up objects, or I call it the key or lateral grip to hold paper or utensils,” he describes. Making cheap, useful prosthetics for those who may otherwise be unable to obtain them is part of Jason’s mission in Myanmar.

Overcoming Stigma

For Jason though, it’s not just about creating innovative prosthetics; it’s about helping spread awareness and education about the limb-difference community. “There’s a lot of stigma about disability in Myanmar and a lot of the developing world in general” Jason indicated. Most people have limited access to prosthetics in Myanmar with their only available options being nonprofit clinics or major prosthetic designers, both of which are either too far away for most people or too expensive. Jason hopes to deliver customizable prosthetics for those in need and create them all for less money. As he works to develop these prosthetic models, his goal is to create something that the user can be proud to wear, and others would be excited to see. “One of the cool things about 3D printing” Jason mentions “is that you can take someone’s personality, favorite colors, or whatever it is and then make a very specific hand for them”. Ultimately, he wants to see a day where limb-difference isn’t stigmatized, and he wants his prosthetics to help eliminate that stigma by standing out; “People are looking at it and they’re like ‘Oh, you don’t have a real hand, but that’s actually really cool! I never thought you could have a hand like that”. He wants his hands to go beyond helping individuals in the limb-difference community to help those around them to gain a better understanding of the unique community.

Jason has recently partnered with the Hands of Hope Foundation to continue to research and develop the Hintha Hand. You can view his progress here. With Jason’s designs and innovations, and his desire to make big changes with how the limb-difference community is perceived in the world, we are excited to see what the future will hold.

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