Meghana Reddy, 18, of La Mesa, Calif., a senior at Francis Parker School in San Diego, uses 3D printing technology to produce artificial hands for children and adults in several countries who cannot afford commercial prostheses. On a family trip to India in 2014, Meghana visited an orphanage and was shocked to see two young children there with missing limbs. “I was moved to do something to help them,” she said. Upon returning home, she did some research online and learned how 3D printers can be used to create inexpensive objects, including prostheses.
Meghana acquired a 3D printer and began experimenting with it. Working with a local computer workshop and engineering software, she figured out how to make custom prosthetic hands tailored to the needs and preferences of individual recipients. It takes about 20 hours for her to “print” a hand in pieces, which are then assembled with screws and cords to enable opening and closing movements. Each hand costs about $30 to make, far less than the thousands of dollars a commercial prosthesis can cost. Initially, Meghana provided new hands to local amputees, but then began working with foreign charities as well to provide prostheses in India and other countries. More than 100 hands have been delivered so far. To meet the demand, Meghana established a nonprofit organization called “Limbs of Love,” set up a website to seek donations, assembled an advisory board of doctors and academicians, and recruited students from several high schools to help. In addition, she has started clubs in several schools to engage more students in her mission.