Northumberland students use 3D tech to lend a helping hand

The engineering students have been working to support a global prosthetic limb initiative

Students from Northumberland College have created a 3D-printed prosthetic limb to help a young person in need, thanks to revolutionary technology.

HND Mechanical Engineering students are working with Enabling the Future, a global network of volunteers working with organisations worldwide using 3D printing technology to create prosthetic limbs for young amputees in third world countries.

The students, the first cohort of engineers to study in the College’s STEM Centre, were provided with specific instructions from Enabling the Future to generate an artificial hand to fit a child’s arm.

The limb is made of polylactic acid (PLA) – a biodegradable plastic – and costs £5 to manufacture, including materials and power.

Gordon Crombie, Northumberland College’s STEM Centre Manager, said: “This excellent project highlights all of our rapid prototyping resources and the positive impact of new technologies.

“As children grow they need larger prosthetics, which becomes expensive due to technology limitations in developing countries; for us, it costs just £5 and a little time.”

The World Health Organization estimates that there are around 30 million people who require prosthetic limbs, braces or other mobility devices, yet less than 20% have them.

The College are now at the stage of submitting the printed prototype for approval to Enabling the Future to ensure the limb meets requirements. Once approved, the limb is destined for a child in need in Africa.

Northumberland College HNC Engineering student, Richard Furlonger, said: “I’m so proud to be a part of this project. It has improved our design and manufacturing skills. It is also an opportunity to change lives for the better. Once our prototype has approval we hope to build 35 limbs initially, with each limb individual to each recipient depending on size, design and capability.”