Prosthetic Limbs: How You Can Build Prosthetics for Children

Release Date
March 30, 2016



Building prosthetics has become easier as technology has become more accessible. With 3D printers, eNABLE creates prosthetic limbs for children with limb differences or missing fingers. Find out how you can build prosthetic limbs for children in need around the world at For more information about innovations in health care, visit

Prosthetic Limbs: 3D Printers Making Superhero Hands for Children (video): 3D printers have introduced a new frontier for innovation in health care. Now volunteers can make superhero hands for children all over the world.
Permissionless Innovation (book): Adam Thierer explains how if the “precautionary principle” (the idea that innovators should be forced to seek the approval of public officials) trumps “permissionless innovation” (the concept that innovators should generally be free to experiment with new technologies and business models) the result will be fewer services, lower-quality goods, higher prices, diminished economic growth, and a decline in the overall standard of living.
America’s Health Care System (online program): In this Learn Liberty On Demand program, distinguished scholars break down the problems with America’s health care system, look at what has caused these problems, and propose what we can do to produce better health for more people at lower cost, year after year.

>> Enable is a fast-growing worldwide community of volunteers using the internet and 3D printing to make prosthetic hands often for children. One of the things you learn when you try to be an inventor or an entrepreneur or learn about it is that invention’s actually pretty easy. Innovation, getting useful ideas adopted is of course, what the world experiences.
Cuz if you don’t manage to innovate, the invention doesn’t go anywhere. I had that experience in May 2013 when a year after I had failed to create a grandiose collaborative network for crowdsource, crowdshared assistive technologies. I attached a comment to YouTube video that said, if you have a printer and you wanna help, put yourself on this map.
If you need a hand, put yourself on this map. And the map itself said, we are a global community, crowdsourcing the production of 3D printed prosthetics to give away for free. It was all smoke and mirrors. It was just an idea. And as such, it was the best minimally viable product I could have done, because I hadn’t invented the good hand.
I didn’t have the global network, but I was able to put something out there that proved that there was the potential for a global network that would deliver 3D printing prosthetics. And as people signed on, if you will just by putting a pin on the map. We actually build the community and made it true.
Digital humanitarians, collectively are a serious force to be reckoned with and I think part of the appeal of what we’re doing is that we all sense that we may be the tip off a really interesting emerging iceberg. Our world, the human world has always been shaped by emerging technologies.
3D printers bring a manufacturing technique into a living room or a basement, or a garage. Anyone can use one of these things to make in principle, in the future, almost anything and the design will travel through this communication that works at a speed of light for free and find their way to this distributed manufacturing facilities.
And the children will see mom and dad, and big brother, and big sister using these machines. And that kid with the new hand is going to have an idea for a new thing that can be made with a 3D printer and the computer, and the network that will connect you to smart, and good willed people all over the world, and that kid is gonna do something really useful.
>> There have been a number of interesting surprises along the way. One of them is that the children absolutely love their hands not just because they give them the ability to do things that they couldn’t do before, but because they give them the feeling and there’s a sense in which it’s really true that they are superheros.
If you are using emerging technologies to make kids feel like superheros, they’re getting pretty interested in these emerging technologies and this is becoming a go to activity for STEM and STEAM learning. Science, technology, engineering, arts and math all over the country. And I think soon, all over the world.
We are creating the world these days at a pace where you can see the change week by week. There are hundreds of thousands of people all over the world who can program a web browser. And in a few years, they are going to be able to create assisted technologies using those same skills.
Enable is trying to harness tens or even hundreds of thousands of high-tech digital humanitarians to give the world literally, but also figuratively, a helping hand. I think that a world in which anyone anywhere can make almost anything for anyone to make their lives better is a world to be anticipated optimistically, pursued aggressively and enjoyed fiercely.