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3-D Printers Serve Greater Purpose

By Caroline Urbanek ’17

Staff Writer


Many Merrimack College students take the time to travel during winter break for service trips or pleasure, but Sam Monaco and Ashley Widing’s trip was one with a different mission. The two girls, along with graduate leader Joe Fairley, traveled to St. Louis, Mo., to deliver a prosthetic hand to a 12-year-old boy named Bailey.

The Batman-themed prosthetic hand was created by the Merrimack chapter of Enabling the Future, more commonly referred to as e-NABLE. Joe Fairley, a Health Science fellow who is working towards his M.S. in Exercise in Sport Science, introduced the program to Merrimack as an extension of the work he started at his alma mater, Siena College. A group of about 20 members are involved with the team here, and Sam Monaco was happy to be chosen to participate in the presentation of the hand.

“It was so exciting to see the hand the club has been working on for so long be given to the recipient. He was so excited, which made it an extremely rewarding experience,” said Monaco.

Bailey’s hand was made using the Ultimaker2 and MakerBot Replicator printers, housed in Mendel Center and Merrimack Athletic Complex’s Human Performance Lab, respectively. Fairley went into detail to explain how the prosthetics are printed.

“Think about a normal printer, laying down ink on paper, except now we have melted plastic on a printing bed.,” Fairley said.  “As the nozzle heats up the plastic and melts it, the arms of the printer move the nozzle around to lay the plastic down on the printing bed layer by layer, corresponding to the design code.”  

These printers are versatile and can use many colors and materials to print a variety of items. In the next semester, e-NABLE is working on a number of projects including printing a prosthetic arm, testing different hand designs, and collaborating with possible hand and arm recipients.

Ashley Widing realized that she even hopes to pursue a similar path for her career, and is excited to see how e-NABLE grows.

“I definitely learned that this is something I want to continue doing for the rest of my life, and will absolutely be a part of it next year,” said Widing.

If you’re interested in joining e-NABLE or learning more, email Joe Fairley at fairleyj@merrimack.edu or attend a meeting. Meetings are Wednesday 6-7pm and Thursday 5:30-7:00pm in the MAC room 1142.