Organisation offers a helping hand

Saifullah Chafeker,10, with his 3D-printed hand.

Gripp3d, a Cape Town-based NGO which makes locally designed, fitted hand devices that are 3D printed for children and adults, is appealing to people who have lost a hand or hands, to come forward.

The organisation, based in Athlone, was established two years ago and creates the custom-fitted device for individuals who had lost a hand or were born with Amniotic Band Syndorme (ABS).

ABS occurs when the unborn baby becomes entangled in fibrous string-like amniotic bands in the womb, restricting blood flow and affecting the baby’s development.

ABS can cause a number of different birth defects depending on which body part is affected.

If a band wraps tightly around a limb, the limb could be completely amputated. The baby may be born with missing fingers, toes, part of an arm or leg.

If the band is across the baby’s face it can cause cleft lip and palate.

In a large number of cases, the baby is also born with clubfeet. ABS is also the cause of numerous miscarriages, such as when a band becomes wrapped around the umbilical cord.

The fitted hands cost about
R5000 to make, according to spokeswoman Ruwayda van der Schyff.

Ms Van der Schyff said every six months the design of the hands is improved to create a better fit and usability.

The process starts with an assessment by a qualified occupational therapist (OT) and the required measurements are taken. The Gripp3D hand is then designed using 3D technology and the hand is printed in 3D.

Once printed, all the parts are assembled and a second OT visit is conducted. Here the recipient is fitted with the hand and taught to use it.

She said the hands were always adjusted as their size needed to be increased as the recipient grew. Gripp3d also caters for children at special needs schools.

Ms Van der Schyff explained that if a recipient outgrew the hand, the individual parts could still be adapted and/or reused to make other hands.

“If damaged, individual parts of the hand can be easily reprinted and replaced. String and elastic bands are simply re-threaded. Recipients are also able to function with the hand as soon as it is obtained. No time consuming training is required,” she said.

The hands are made free of charge for individuals who cannot afford them and those who are able to pay are only required to give a mandatory donation to the Gripp3D project.