Texas boy gets 3D 'Iron Man' hand


It's every boy's dream to become a superhero. Thanks to technology, one boy gets to feel like one every day after receiving a new 3D-printed prosthetic hand.

Five-year-old Keith Harris was born with a rare condition called symbrachydactyly, which caused his right hand to not fully form during development. On Oct. 17, the boy from Texas finally got to show off his new prosthetic hand thanks to a group called e-Nable.

The e-Nable group, which creates prosthetics for children with medical needs, developed the "3D Mechanical Hand" for only $45. A new prosthetic would have cost the Harris' approximately $40,000, lasting only as long as their son remains his size. The organization of global volunteers with backgrounds in engineering and prop design gave the Harris' the 3D-printed prosthetic for free. The group pairs children and adults with missing or deformed fingers, hands or forearms with makers who produce customized 3D printed prostheses that can improve their lives.

Wearing a T-shirt that read, "Ten Fingers are Overrated," the Iron Man hand allows the boy to make a fist and even high-five his classmates at Mossman Elementary School in Houston.

"When I first got my hand I thought it would be difficult for me to do stuff with it," Harris said. "I love it."

The boy's mother, Kimberly Harris, says that her son has been able to come out of his shell. The previous unwanted attention his hand brought him had been a challenge for the five-year-old.

"He doesn't like when people stare at him, he doesn't like when people continue to ask about it," Harris said. "So the past five years have been challenging in a sense that there is nothing we can do about it."

According to his mother, although the boy has only said he doesn't like his hand three times before in the past, Keith will now be able to keep living an active life with his new hand. "I like the fingers," he said.

The boy is the first person in Texas to receive an Iron Man hand, while Hayley Fraser, a 5-year-old girl in Scotland, also has received one from e-Nable volunteers. A 12-year-old Connecticut boy has also received a 3D-printed prosthetic made by his father, who forged ahead after he watched a demo video by Ivan Owen on YouTube about how to use 3D-printing technology to create similar devices.

As word spread, two men collaborated and made their design public domain -- Owen in Bellingham, Wash., and Richard Van As in South Africa, posted their Robohand mechanical hand prosthesis on 3D printer company MakerBot's Thingiverse site as a digital file that can be used to produce its parts in a 3D printer. Owen explains how the project grew and brought in others in a TEDx talk.

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