3-D printer tech is lending a helping hand

Baltimore, Md. (WUSA9) -- It's a crisp, Sunday afternoon in the early fall. An auditorium at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore was teeming with kids who were mesmerized by some pretty awesome technology... 3-D printing.

It is surging in popularity, creating amazing things from full size cars, to models, toys and tools. But these printers are creating tools for a very different purpose.

Griffin Matuszuk is 5 years of age. He was born with a congenital birth defect. As a result he has a small left hand, and needs a prosthetic for that hand. He is excited by the creations that came out of the 3-D printers.

Griffin's mother, Quinn Cassidy says, "Today he (Griffin) put on a new hand that he just gotten and picked up a bagel."

Griffin received a new hand from e-NABLE, a group of over 1500 members from around the world who use 3-D printers to make hand devices for those in need.

Griffin's new hand has blue and white colors, he likes it, and he shows it off to his family. He wore 3-D printed hands around his friends recently, they were amazed.

Cassidy says, "Kids come up to him in grocery stores and can't talk about anything else."

Robert Graboyes, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, a research center at George Mason University. He says, "These kids come out of here and apparently, at least they say, makes them feel like cyber heroes, and that is a real important part of what constitutes great healthcare."

Dr. Graboyes and his colleagues have been tracking the success of e-NABLE, and looking at how the success from the group can apply to the rest of the healthcare system.

The goal is to develop brand new ways of providing care in ways that will bring the cost down and make better health for more people.

Dr. Graboyes says, "What's really interesting is the professionally made FDA approved prosthetic hands cost on average about $40,000. These things (points to 3-D printed hands), $5, $10. They don't do everything the $40,000 model does, but, you can build one for a child, then several months later when he's outgrown it, build another.

Which is welcome news for Quinn, whose family spent thousands of dollars for her son's other body-powered prosthetic.

Cassidy says, "It's not something that we have to scrimp and save and budget for years, to make sure that we have to keep him in the hands that he needs."

Dr. Graboyes says, "This is day one of the future, because what these guys are doing with e-NABLE is almost impossible to apply right now anywhere else in healthcare. It doesn't have to be that way, and it's not going to be that way."

"The world is about to undergo an explosion of new healthcare technologies. The real question is whether here in the US we build a legal and regulatory system that lets the great things happen here, or whether we're gonna be bringing up the rear end of the parade," adds Dr. Graboyes.


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