Engineering Students Use 3D Technology to Give a Helping Hand
3D Printed Prosthetic Arm

Engineering Students Use 3D Technology to Give a Helping Hand and Support a Global Prosthetic Limb Initiative

14 March

Students from Northumberland College have created a 3D-printed prosthetic limb that could save the life of a young person in need, thanks to revolutionary technology.

HND Mechanical Engineering Students are working with Enabling the Future, a global network of passionate volunteers that work with organisations worldwide using 3D printing technology, to create prosthetic limbs for young amputees in third world countries.

The students, who are the first cohort of engineers to study in the College's state-of-the-art STEM Centre, were provided with specific instructions from Enabling the Future, to generate an artificial hand to fit a child's arm.

The limb, made of PLAPolylactic acid, a biodegradable plastic has cost £5 to manufacture, including the cost of materials and power.

Gordon Crombie, Northumberland College's STEM Centre Manager said: "This excellent project highlights all of our rapid prototyping resources and the positive impact of new technologies.

"As children grow they need larger prosthetics, which becomes expensive due to technology limitations in developing countries, however for us, it costs just £5 and a little time."

The World Health Organization estimates that there are around 30 million people who require prosthetic limbs, braces or other mobility devices, yet less than 20% have them.

The College are now at the stage of submitting the printed prototype for approval to Enabling the Future to ensure the limb meets requirements. Once approved or any changes are made, this limb is destined for a child in need in Africa.

Northumberland College HNC Engineering student, Richard Furlonger, 21 from Blyth, said: "I'm so proud to be a part of this project. It has improved our design and manufacturing skills. It is also an opportunity to change lives for the better. Once our prototype has approval we hope to build 35 limbs initially, with each limb individual to each recipient depending on size, design and capability."

Gordon added: "Our students have been a credit to the College and fully embraced this learning experience. They are doing something fantastic for under privileged children, which has been a pleasure to be part of.

"Our aim is to be able to produce future prosthetics to help more vulnerable young people across the world whilst broaden our students life skills."

Globally, around 30 million people live with limb-loss. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that only 5% have access to prosthetic care. Compounding this, there is a global shortage of trained prosthetists. WHO estimates that an additional 40,000 prosthetists will be necessary to serve all those in need.

Northumberland College's £2.5m state-of-the-art STEM Centre at its Ashington campus, opened in September 2017 and is equipped with the latest advanced industry equipped including a glass 10,000 clean room, Digital 3D imagery equipment, nanotechnology, microscopes, specialist chemicals and fab labs where budding product designers and entrepreneurs can access the latest in digital fabrication equipment for prototyping.

To find out more about Enabling the Future visit www.enablingthefuture.org/lend-a-hand

To find out more about courses in STEM at Northumberland College visit www.northumberland.ac.uk/STEM  

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