Q: What is e-NABLE and how does it work?

e-NABLE is a global network of volunteers who are using their 3D printers, design skills, and personal time to create free 3D printed prosthetic hands for those in need – with the goal of providing them to underserved populations around the world.

We are not a company and we do not sell these devices. We describe e-NABLE as a “movement” because there is no single legal entity or organization that represents it.

In 6 years, e-NABLE has evolved from a small group of pioneers into a loose unofficial confederation of over 140 chapters around the world.

Q: How did e-NABLE get started?

The e-NABLE origin story has been told in words and pictures on our About e-NABLE page

Q: Where are you based?

e-NABLE is a web-based community that doesn’t have a central location. As you can see from this map, e-NABLE is a truly global volunteer organization, perhaps 2/3 of us are (currently) based in the United States.

Q: How many volunteers do you have?

The Google-Plus community (now retired by Google) had over 10 thousand members. In the 3-4 years it was live, over 3300 people have registered in e-NABLE Web Central, the site that matches volunteers with recipients. Many other volunteers work independently or with local chapters.

Approximately half of our volunteers operate 3D printers. Volunteers include hobbyists, students, and amateurs as well as professional engineers, prosthetists, occupational therapists, and researchers.

Q: How many people have you helped and are in the process of helping?

Thousands of children in North America and Europe have received “superhero hands.” But we are increasingly developing and delivering more natural-looking devices for more traditional cultures around the world.

Q: Where are your volunteers and recipients mainly based?

North America, Europe, and Latin America boast many chapters and recipients but there are numerous active chapters in over Asia, Africa, India, and the Middle East as well.

Q: Who can get an e-NABLE device?

People who are missing fingers or arms below the elbow can benefit from these 3D printed devices. They are especially helpful for children who do not normally have the option of traditional prosthetic device either due to cost, time, or due to the uniqueness of their limb difference.

We currently have upper arm solutions for people with a functional wrist or elbow.

Q: How old do you have to be to get an e-NABLE device?

We recommend that children be at least 3 years old before wearing a device due to the choking hazards that small parts pose and so that children can have the chance to learn to do every day things without a helper hand.

Q: What can these 3D printed hands be used for?

These devices should be seen as tools and not a fully functional prosthetic device. Children use them for simple tasks like holding water bottles while being able to hold a snack in their other hand at the same time, helping to give them balance by allowing them to use two hands to ride a bike or swing on the swings, holding sports equipment like baseball or cricket bats, catching soccer or footballs etc. and other simple tasks that having two hands is helpful for. Some children have found that swimming with them has been helpful as well.

These devices can not hold more than a few pounds of weight and the grip strength is not that strong on most of the designs and can not be used for playing on monkey bars, doing hand-stands, working the brakes on bicycles or anything else that may lead to harm if the device fails or breaks. Additionally, fingers do not move individually – they have a simple basic grasping function.

Q: How much does a prosthesis from e-NABLE cost?

e-NABLE does not charge for the prosthetic devices it provides. We are a volunteer community and offer these devices completely free of charge.

The cost of materials of the Raptor Hand is approximately $35. However, that does not factor in the time involved in building one, which can include assembly, fitting, testing, and more. Since this can be done by a volunteer or the recipient and his/her family, this is difficult to put a dollar figure on.

Q: What would an equivalent, partial hand prosthesis made by a professional cost?

A professionally made, muscle-actuated hand can cost thousands or tens of dollars. With good insurance coverage, you may want to consider one of these because it would be custom made, the care would be supervised by a doctor, and it would likely be made out of strong materials like carbon fiber.

Q: How durable is an e-NABLE hand?

A: The hands hold up quite well to the activities of a typical child. Many of our recipients have sent in videos of children using the hands to ride bikesthrow a ball with the dogswim, and perform other activities.

The Gripper Hand endures 60 pounds of pressure. While more rigorous mechanical testing in ongoing, a group of students has conducted initial impact testing by dropping the hands from a height of several stories. The hands sustained minor damage, but survived.

When e-NABLE hands do break, simple repairs can be made using a 3D printing pen (i.e. the 3Doodler) or by reprinting the broken part.

The hands can also be printed in a variety of materials, including very durable nylon.

Q: Are any health care professionals involved in e-NABLE?

Dr. Albert Chi Oregon Health Sciences University works closely with the e-NABLE community. He is a trauma surgeon with a background in biomedical engineering, clinical research, and has been featured on 60 minutes (twice!) for his work on high-tech brain-controlled robotic arms.

Approximately 30 other Certified Prosthetist-Orthotists and Occupational Therapists are members of our Google Plus community. These volunteers work with engineers and 3D designers in e-NABLE, to provide input on comfort factors, usability, and design.

Q: What kinds of prostheses does e-NABLE offer?

Please refer to our e-NABLE Designs reference page, here.

Q: If someone wanted to become an e-NABLE volunteer, but did not own a 3D printer, what would one cost?

The price and quality of desktop 3D printers has improved considerably in recent years. Our volunteers routinely make hands-on machines ranging from $200 to $3000.

You can visit our shop to see some of our recommended 3D printers for working with the e-NABLE Community!

Q: Is this organization only in need of fabricators and designers?

There are many e-NABLE members/volunteers who do not own a 3D printer and who do not fabricate hands. There are other ways to participate – please join us!

Q: Does this mean the end of professionally made prostheses?

No. e-NABLE typically focuses on underserved communities (including children missing hands) for whom traditional prostheses are too expensive (because they can cost thousands of dollars per year) or impractical (because children outgrow them).

Safety Guidelines

Important safety guidelines for all e-NABLE volunteers and device recipients.

11 thoughts on “FAQs

  1. Garrison Souder Reply

    Hello, My name is Garrison Souder. I am a STEM educator teaching Technology Education/ PLTW courses at my middle school. We utilize various wood and metal shop machines and tools to fabricate projects and also integrate autodesk inventor into the design process . I have acquired 3 3D printers for my school and I believe another on the way. I have always been interested in the mechanics of the human body and prosthetics. I am aiming to bring the concept of a 3d printed hand into my classroom and get my kids excited about it. I don’t think that part will be difficult. I would love to work the enable groups design into my classes and help integrate it into my curriculum for my county. Can you help. I was looking around to see what curriculum articles you have?? I really want to get my students thinking global and working to build a community. I look forward to hearing from you .

    • Jen Owen - E-NABLE Reply

      Hello Garrison!!

      We are actively working on getting some curriculum put together but it is still in the building process. We have a whole lot of teachers who have already done this in their classrooms that I am sure would be happy to share!

      If you are interested and want to sign up to help – please visit our “Get Involved page” and it has all the links you need to get started!

      There is a link to the intake form for both recipients and volunteers, a link to our forums for asking questions (and we have an education section) and also the Google+ group!

  2. KATZZZZZZ Reply

    Dear Enable,
    We are currently working on a hand and we were wondering if there are any rules or regulations regarding meeting our recepient and giving them the hand.

    Thank You 🙂

    • Jen Owen - E-NABLE Reply


      We dont have any “Rules” but we do have recommendations for safety for all.

      1. Meet only in public places (Mall food courts, libraries, coffee shops, school settings etc.)
      2. Never meet in each other’s homes (recipients or makers)
      3. Always take someone with you and tell someone where you are going.
      4. Basic internet safety stuff!

  3. Batchimeg Ulzii Reply

    Dear Enable,

    I am Batchimeg and I am from Mongolia. Non-governmental organization “Bid chadna” where I work wants to help 100 children which will be part of the “100 children, 100 hands” campaign. When I click the “form”, it is a form for individuals. What should I do to have 100 children gotten involved in your project via our campaign. Please let informed. I would also like to be informed about the cost. Thank you.

  4. Ltg Reply

    Hello, I’m a French student I would like to know if the materials needed for the assemble of a prothesis are available in France (cause the shipping price is very expensive…).
    We are currently working for an exam which the subject is about how prothesis can improve someone’s life so we are going to create a prothesis with 3D printer. I know that there is some volunteer of the association in France but I don’t really know how to proceed for buying materials. We will be very intrusted if we can implement this project with your association’s help 🙂
    (Sorry for bad English)

  5. lolli Reply

    good afternoon
    i would like help a morrocan children’s . I m french . the best it s buy to you a kit for hand or buy a imprimant 3D ? in morroco i see a orthopedic doctor ? cordially
    i speak french …sorry for my poor english thank you a lot for your work

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