UI students design 3D printed prosthetics for kids in need

A new student organization, 3D Iowa, recently raised almost $3,000 to support their initiative to provide low-cost prosthetics to families in need.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

A recently formed student organization at the University of Iowa tries to make a difference with the power of 3D-printing technology.

3D Iowa, formed at the beginning of the semester, has raised nearly $3,000 to support its initiative to create 3D-printed prosthetics for children as an alternative to expensive prosthetics kids can quickly outgrow.

“Kids, growing up, they have to get a new prosthetic every year. That $15,000 [prosthetic cost] is multiplied by several years,” said 3D Iowa President and co-founder Cody Wilson. “We can get the cost down to $50 per unit and are able to donate it to them for free.”

3D Iowa is currently working on building a prosthetic hand for a 1-year-old from San Antonio. The group partnered with eNable, a national organization that connects kids in need of prosthetics with organizations willing to design them. The initiative drew a large amount of support on GOLDrush, the UI’s crowdfunding system.

“We reached out to our family and friends, old teachers from high school- I’ve had people reach out to me about the project that I haven’t heard from in a long time,” project lead Phil Storto said. “It’s very cool and I feel like we’re getting a ton of support.”

Vice President and co-founder Dylan Ray said the prosthetics have the added benefit of being customized to be kid-friendly, incorporating bright colors and superhero character designs.

While the club is currently working with families remotely, Wilson said they hope to work with kids in the UI community, including the Kid Captain program, in the future.

“We’re wanting to work with [Stead Family Children’s Hospital] in the future …  because it’s in our own backyard. I’d love a kid with our prosthetic to be on the field [as kid captain] and to be recognized,” Wilson said.

3D Iowa meets weekly and currently has around 40 members and three faculty advisors, studying various fields of engineering and computer science, as well as business students with an interest in the marketing and financial side of the 3D industry.

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“A lot of students in the college of engineering are looking for experience in the 3D realm. Having a lot of different majors involved really helps with creative products,” Ray said.

The club has several other initiatives besides making prosthetics for kids, including making prosthetics for animals and developing a printer that can print chocolate rather than plastic.

Victor Nge, who leads the chocolate printer project, explained that printing chocolate can help younger engineering students gain an understanding of biotechnology before moving to more advanced projects.

“The technology of switching from plastic to chocolate is the same thought process they use to print biomaterial. It’s a platform for [students] to learn the technology better,” Nge said.

Ray said the club hopes to turn some of their side projects into fundraising initiatives, including selling custom phone cases and 3D lithographs.

While 3D Iowa has many projects in the pipeline, creating a difference in the community remains at the heart of their mission.

“Our final goal is to see the look on the kid’s faces,” Wilson said. “That will make all of the hard work and the late nights worth it.”

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