- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) - Scott Jorgenson never thought he’d be getting a new hand.

The 64-year-old pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Riverton, Jorgenson was born without most of his left hand. Thanks to Enablingthefuture.org, however, Jorgenson will have the opportunity to get a prosthetic hand made locally with a three-dimensional printer.

Jorgenson came across the website last year and said it “tweaked” his interest on how hands were being made in an unusual way with the help of the nonprofit group.

“I had no idea the need was so great,” he said. “I don’t run into a lot of people like this.”

Also known as e-NABLE, the group connects people with organizations or individuals who volunteer their services and materials to produce prosthetic hands with 3-D printers.

They relay their message of striving to give a “helping hand” to anyone who needs it. And although e-NABLE has rendered its services mostly to children, its encourage any interested person to make contact and learn the process.

Jorgenson wondered if his age might be a problem.

“They said ‘no, you’re never too old to receive one,’” he said.

He later received notification that he was matched up with volunteers willing to help him. A group of students from State University of New York at Albany agreed help Jorgenson as part of a class project and looked for a 3-D printer to do the work.

That local expert was David Maulik in Riverton. He recognized Jorgenson through an online profile which e-NABLE uses to connect printers with those looking to get a hand. Maulik realized that his sister’s son had been baptized by Jorgenson so he quickly offered to create the prosthetic hand.

Maulik, a 3-D printer operator who teaches for Maker Space 307 in Fort Washakie, signed up with e-NABLE, which has created more than 700 hands for recipients worldwide.

The 3-D-printed hands are inexpensive compared to conventionally manufactured prosthetics. e-NABLE now offers 10 different designs. Maulik made the “Cyborg Beast” model for Jorgenson.

Creators of the designs release the information for free via a digital format that is entered into the printer’s “slicing engine.” Engineers, artists, occupational therapists, prosthetists, and even families can make a prosthetic hand if they have easy access to a 3-D printer.

Chuck Hull of 3-D Systems Corp. invented the first type of 3-D printer in 1984. Today, some 3-D printers can be purchased for less than $1,000.

The 3-D printer has a robotic-type setup. The printer is equipped with device similar to a hot glue gun. Plastic is fed into the device, and the plastic melts and builds the object by applying the material layer by layer as it follows the digital design program.

Some pieces take longer to make than others. Maulik estimated total printing time for Jorgenson’s hand at 23 hours. Maulik had to wait for some material, like screws, to be delivered, but all materials usually can be purchased locally.

“The most amazing thing with this is we’re trying to help everybody out,” Maulik said. “I’m donating it all to Scott because he wanted it, and I can help him, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Maulik also has recently finished a hand for a man living in Tennessee whose fingers were cut off in an accident.

The designs can be modified to fit the individual’s hand, Maulik said. He said he’s fascinated that the original design already had three major revisions in 2014 because so many people are using it.

Maulik owns two different 3-D printers. One is a reverse-type that removes layers of material in the manner of a sculptor reducing a mass to a finished product, while the other was too small to make Jorgenson’s hand. He found out about the 3-D printer owned by the Wind River Development Fund in Fort Washakie and requested to use it.

Maulik also works with his family business, Hoffman Electric, in Riverton. He has made simple objects with his newer, smaller printer, such as toys and vases. The digital files to make other objects are easily accessible online, he said. He made a children’s hand to test the process before beginning Jorgenson’s hand.

Maulik also will make use of the printers run by the Innovation Lab at Central Wyoming College and plans to teach a class there as well.

“I really believe in project-based learning and learning through experimentation,” he said. “And it gives me an excuse to play around with my toy.”

Last year, Jorgenson met with Maulik, 28, for the first time to measure his hand and they went over the design and materials that were used.

“I was able to choose the color,” Jorgenson said. “I’m so fascinated. It’s such a worthy cause.”

The two different types of plastic used were inexpensive. To assemble it he only needed ordinary tools. The printer did the hard part. Depending on the materials used, e-NABLE estimates the cost for a 3-D printed hand anywhere from $20 to $50. Maulik confirmed Jorgenson’s hand cost less than $50.

Prosthetics cost projections for service members provided to the Department of Veteran Affairs through the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development estimated a myoelectric partial hand prosthetic costs about $18,000. More estimates showed a myoelectric wrist and hand prosthesis costs about $20,000.

The 3-D hands work best for people who have a palm and at least a 30-degree motion in the wrist. This allows them to grasp items effectively.

According to the website, “the device relies on wrist movement to work to provide the appropriate movement to cause the fingers to close and open.” The hand latches securely on to the wrist with padding and Velcro.

Jorgenson was curious to find out what it would be like to have his left hand. If he finds it to work well for him, he said he will use it.

“I’ll have to work at it to adopt to it,” Jorgenson said. “Even if I don’t use it a lot I at least want to see what it’s like.”

When Jorgenson was a child he heard his parents mention getting a prosthetic hand for him, “but they never did,” he said.

Jorgenson tried on the hand for the first time in January at the Frank Wise building and took it home that night.

Maulik made some adjustments and told Jorgenson he would be improving the design over time. Jorgenson agreed to communicate how he handles the new hand.

“I will play around with this and write down my thoughts,” he said.

Jorgenson, who volunteers as a Big Brother with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Wyoming, said his new hand will be a hit at the lunch table at Rendezvous Elementary School.

“I’m going to be the most popular kid in third grade,” Jorgenson said.

Jorgenson is a member of Riverton Rotary and hopes to make a presentation there.

Maulik appreciates the opportunity to fulfill Jorgenson’s curiosity.

“Initially I wanted to buy the printer to play with it and make stuff,” he said. “But I realized I actually have the ability to make an impact in somebody’s life … it’s amazing.”

___

Information from: The (Riverton, Wyo.) Ranger, http://www.dailyranger.com

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