Off the ring road that arcs its way through the University of Victoria campus, in a nondescript engineering lab, a 3-D printer whirs and buzzes away. Laying down layer after layer, the filament slowly forms a component that may some day change an amputee’s life.
The Victoria Hand Project, located on the University of Victoria campus, designs, engineers, and produces low-cost, 3-D-printed upper-limb prosthetics for people in countries around the world where prosthetic development and care can be costly and difficult to access, especially in remote and underserved communities. Through partnerships with health care providers in Guatemala, Cambodia, Nepal, Haiti, Ecuador, Egypt, Uganda, and Kenya, the project focuses on in-country printing, production, and the assembly of prosthetics to make them more affordable to a broader range of patients.
Since 2015 Nick Dechev, the executive director of the Victoria Hand Project, has designed, engineered, and re-engineered multiple hand and limb configurations. His work has involved testing plastics, 3-D printers, tensile strength, assembly, and final paint colouration.
Recently granted $1-million in funding, the Victoria Hand Project will now be setting its sights on underinsured or non-insured patients in the United States who cannot afford prosthetics, and those in Canada, who live in remote communities.