HALIFAX: In his spare time, a Louisdale native is using technology to improve the lives of people around the globe.
Jake Boudreau has become the first person in Nova Scotia to work with “e-NABLE,” a worldwide network of volunteers who use 3D printers to create prosthetic hands and arms for amputees. Boudreau, who currently resides in Halifax, has launched his own crowd-funded campaign “Kindness 3D,” and in April he plans to ship his first custom-made limb to a recipient in Brazil.
Boudreau first became aware of “e-NABLE” when he saw a YouTube video about the organization.
“It’s a group of doctors, engineers and educators that are based out of the United States,” said Boudreau. “They use 3D printing to develop prosthetics for people who can’t afford them or are looking for a change from what they traditionally have.”
The network provides training to volunteers and provides them with designs that they are free to assemble and distribute for non-commercial purposes. Potential recipients can use the “e-NABLE” Web site to submit their measurements, photos, and colour choices. They are then matched with a volunteer who will create a prosthetic limb that is tailored for them.
“Basically that’s how I got connected with this girl in Brazil,” said Boudreau. “I started the GoFundMe campaign in early November, and I crowd-sourced around $1,200 toward buying a printer, buying materials and getting set up.”
Boudreau has already used the equipment to create a prototype hand that he will use to show people what can be accomplished using 3D printing technology.
“In order to be validated as a member through “e-NABLE,” you have to develop a prototype of each style,” said Boudreau. “They oversee to make sure you’re scaling the objects properly, and that you’re sizing it to fit the person, because with prosthetics, fit is everything.”
Boudreau formerly worked for a logistics firm that often transported 3D printers. Over the years, he has seen the technology become cheaper and more accessible.
“I decided to get involved after I noticed how much they’ve scaled down. Now they’re the size of a microwave and you can have them in your house,” said Boudreau.
Boudreau plans to access funding from the province to help grow the project. He said a growing number of schools are being outfitted with 3D printers, and he would like to put them to use by showing students how to make the parts and involve them in the assembly of the prosthetics. He also hopes to collaborate with engineering students in Halifax to develop new and improved designs.
“These designs are totally open-source,” said Boudreau. “We have the rights to download, fabricate, assemble and edit existing designs if we think they can be improved upon.
“My goal is to be able to educate and motivate people to get involved with this, to start a new chapter for themselves, to do a research project and not just make something, but outfit somebody for life.”