3D Printer Used to Make Burn Victim a New Hand

For one young burn victim, a Massachusetts librarian has opened doors into a new way of living.

Inside the Newton Free Library, there is a life altering device.

And while this is no slight to the stacks of books which have enriched the minds of learners since 1868, the library houses a 3D printer, which cost a few thousand dollars and is used to teach kids.

"It's not just books anymore," said librarian John Walsh.

It also printed a partial prosthetic hand for a man who was badly burned in a gas explosion 14 years ago in Guatemala, which killed two of his sisters.

Welmer Cordova told necn he had no idea the hand was being made for him.

Just 20 years old, he was back in Boston for his 30th surgery at Shriners Hospital - an unexpected bonus is that for the past two weeks, he can now grip objects better.

"I'm not an engineer, but I play one at work," said John Walsh, the assistant reference supervisor, aka the library's 3D printing guru, who made this happen.

When he was asked one day about a model of a prosthetic hand he had printed, Welmer was in luck.

"Worst case, I fail and nothing changes in his life. Best case, it works," Walsh said.

The concept was there. Walsh just tweaked it.

It took him three attempts to size it properly, using caps to fit the stubs of Welmer's right index and ring fingers - a total of 30 minutes to design and three hours to print.

The printer produces only a 10th of a millimeter at a time.

And then with fishing line, an elastic cord, a glove and a will to help, Walsh made Cordova a new hand.

"He can give me a high five. I knew it was great when he took a picture and sent it to his mom and dad," said Walsh. "I went, 'That's - that's the moment."

This is not a medical device that cost tens of thousands of dollars, and it's not trying to be.

Incredibly, to make this hand cost only $10.

Walsh - and Cordova - hope it lasts.

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