Gabi engineers a helping hand

Biomedical engineering student Gabi Newman has found a novel way to use her skills to help those in need. Gabi has been 3D printing assistive hand devices to donate to people who are missing fingers due to natural disaster, disease, war or birth defects.

So far, she has printed and assembled about 20 prosthetic hands in a range of sizes, to suit small children right through to adults.

Gabi is a member of the newly formed Melbourne chapter of E-Nable, a charity set up to overcome the prohibitive costs of traditional prostheses using 3D printing technology.

Gabi said that making the assistive devices for E-Nable has solidified her passion for helping people through engineering.

“I have learnt so much from this opportunity, I barely knew anything about 3D printing before. Now that I have realised the potential, it has sparked my interest and I am constantly thinking of new ideas about how 3D printers could be used for prosthetics. I would love to design a prosthetic myself at some point,” she said.

Leader of the the local chapter of E-Nable, professional 3D printer Christopher Ly, said that while the group hope one day to offer limbs to people in Australia free of charge, the cost of public liability insurance is a major obstacle.

“Until we can raise the funds we need, we’re looking at helping E-Nable USA to meet their demand for limbs and offering assistance in countries such as Indonesia and India where parts are expensive,” he said.

Gabi hopes to continue participating in E-Nable as long as she can, and in future she would like to work in a medical engineering firm or contribute to prosthetics research at Monash.

“A dream of mine would be to work on prosthetics such as the cytoskeleton and myoelectric prosthetics. I would love the opportunity to contribute to making these kinds of prosthetics more accessible and affordable,” she said.

Several of Gabi’s prosthetic hands will be on display at Future Finders, an exhibition curated by Monash University’s Faculty of Engineering. Future Finders showcases a selection of sustainable solutions developed by engineering students such as emergency lighting for disaster zones, clean drinking water in developing countries, sustainable housing and even an electric skateboard. The exhibition also emphasises the close connections between art and engineering.

“Engineering is all about problem solving and creativity, and I think that’s what we want to highlight. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the different projects on display,” Gabi said.