High school students make prosthetic hand using 3D printer

Mayfield High School students with 3D prosthetic hand
Senior CADD students Julius Gartrell, Ezell Williams and Edwin Sapozhnikov are shown with the 3D printed e-NABLE prosthetic hand that Ezell and Edwin recently assembled. Julius designed the rotating stand. Both the hand and stand will be featured as part of 3D printer manufacturer MakerGear’s exhibit at the Hanover Messe Trade Fair in Germany later this month.

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Craig Schmidt, CADD Engineering Technology teacher, Excel TECC, Mayfield City School District)

The engineering and manufacturing fields have seen incredible advancements in technology over the last 30 years. We moved from board drafting to computer-aided drafting, and then to modeling parts on-screen. Manufacturing processes continue to be automated and improved. We often hear of another technology – 3D printing. What is 3D printing, and how has it impacted a high school engineering program?

The process begins with a digital “model,” which can be created using several different methods. These models can be created with software applications, scanned using 3D scanners or may be scanned using a smartphone camera in conjunction with IOS or Android applications.  Once the model is completed, it must be prepared for printing. The model is then prepared using a “slicing” application, which converts the model into thin layers and creates code to communicate with the printer.

In traditional machining processes, also known as “subtractive” manufacturing, a piece of raw material is cut in various ways to create a part. In the 3D printing process, also known as “additive” manufacturing, we begin with a computer model, and the 3D printer builds the part layer by layer until it is complete. Plastic filament, 1.75 mm in diameter, is fed through a moving heated extruder, which compresses the filament. The heated filament is deposited on a moving build plate, typically in 0.02 mm thick layers. Print times can range from a few minutes, for an extremely tiny part, to a day or more for larger parts.

3D printing has significantly changed our CADD Engineering Technology program at the Mayfield Innovation Center on the Mayfield High School campus. In November 2014, I applied for and received a grant from the Mayfield Business Alliance to purchase our first 3D printer. Students have seen their ideas “come to life” through various engineering and architectural 3D-printed projects.

Our program is a two-year college tech prop program and is part of Excel TECC (Technical Education Career Consortium). The Mayfield Innovation Center also is home to Mayfield High School STEM2M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) programs. This year, freshman students were offered biomedical science and engineering courses. Additional courses will be offered each year. The center also hosts visits from the district’s elementary and middle school students. The facility is state-of-the-art, and includes a fabrication lab, amphitheater, numerous collaboration spaces and a café.

Last fall, Gina Burich, a French teacher at Mayfield High School, circulated a French video showing a child using a 3D-printed prosthetic hand. I was intrigued by the video and showed it to our class. Using downloaded files, our student team printed and built a test hand, which was submitted to e-NABLE, a world-wide network of prosthetic device makers. We became an approved e-NABLE maker in December. A local family, whose son was in need of a prosthetic hand, passed through CADD student Emily Pietrantone’s checkout lane at Target. She connected the family with our program, and their son will be our first prosthetic hand recipient in late April! Our students exhibited the prototype prosthetic hands at National Manufacturing Day, the Ohio School Boards Association Student Achievement Fair and at the Mayfield Science Showcase. Our students, and the prosthetic hands, have been featured on Fox 8 television and on cleveland.com.   This project – which first began via an email and then a chance encounter in a checkout lane – is not only a great hands-on class project using 3D printing technology, but has given our students an opportunity to change lives.

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