In June Reddit user Matt Cashman wrote about the sad story of his brother who had lost both his hands in an oil rig accident in the USA. The distance between them meant the amount of support he could offer was limiting, however he took to the network to help pull together workout exercises he could focus on to give some sense of achievement at such a horrible time.
In a predictably Reddit way the community jumped at the chance to help out in a big way, headed by Cameron Norris at Wevolver. In a selfless act he offered Matt’s brother a 3D printed prosthetic for free with the mission of changing the prosthetics industry for everyone. Matt was blown away by the offer and the support of the community who upvoted the post 2679 times.
Wevolver is a not-for-profit company funded by Bethnal Green Ventures. They want to make it as easy as possible for anyone to create hardware at home by giving them well thought out blueprints to guide them through the process. Likewise, it gives hardware designers a way to document and open source their designs for anyone to use.
In doing so he hopes to address a wider problem. In the United States prosthetic patients pay an extortionate amount for replacement limbs. What could cost a few dollars to 3D print costs the them thousands in medical bills.
Prosthetic initiatives like this are not new, but Wevolver explains that they often fall short in usability and many prefer what ability they have left of their stump. With this in mind the project’s focus is on genuine long-term benefit and so they are working close with the medical industry, including Australian hand surgeon, Neela Janakiramanan, from St Vincents Hospital and US Prosthetist, Brian Little.
The best prosthetic on the market today is the i-Limb which uses a technology called Myoelectric; a technique used to send electrical signals from the muscle to electronics to control motors. This serious piece of kit costs anything from $38k to $120k, but Cameron and the group want to use it as a benchmark to aim for. Cameron says the sole purpose is to develop plans for the world’s first public domain medical grade myoelectric prosthesis.