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14th October 2014

A story about the people who made it possible for anyone to ‘build a hand’

There are 1,500 people out there from New Zealand through South Africa to Alaska who go home after work, sit down and start working on ‘blueprints’ for hand prosthetics.

They’re volunteers and they set out to give “a helping hand” to those who need it most.

The community is called E-nable, and they’re probably the best thing you’ll read about today. They create hand prosthetic designs, which can be downloaded for free (via Thinginverse), hook you up with the closest 3d printers around and make sure that the materials will cost somewhere between 20$ and 50$.

Started with a carpenter and a puppeteer

Sounds like a fairytale? Because it is.

In 2011, a carpenter from South Africa lost 4 fingers on his right hand during an accident with the table saw. He set out to find a solution and came across a video uploaded by a prop maker in the US who at the time was creating mechanical hands for a coming show. He sent him an email and the prop maker replied.

Thousands of messages, hours of Skype calls, video chats and a year later the two of them came up with a functioning prototype of a prosthetic hand (the ‘Robohand’). Meanwhile a South African mother got in touch asking the duo if they could come up with something for her 5 year old son who was born missing fingers on one of his hands. He was Liam, and that’s when it started.


Liam (5) from South Africa trying out his prosthetic hand/ E-nable

And today?

E-nable is growing big.

Anyone and everyone can join the community, most recently a previous nightclub security guard designed an artificial hand for a kid with inbuilt ‘Wolverine claws’.

Then a few days on, a boy in Hawaii received an Iron Man hand from the community.


Bubba (3 and a proud half) from Maui after receiving his ‘Iron man’ hand/E-nable

It’s global. It’s viral. And it’s inspiring.

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Header photo: Fotolia