3D Printed Hands Are Giving Syrian Children a Second Chance
Assistive Technology, Middle East, July 6 2020
SYRIA: War is causing havoc and destruction in Syria. However, children remain innocent within this realm and their pursuits of playtime and fun are undiminished. Ten-year-old Loai was playing in his neighborhood in Aleppo with his friends when a shell was dropped on them. Loai lost his hand in the attack.
Smart Hand is a startup that creates artificial limbs, by using 3D printers, to provide affordable prostheses for children in Aleppo-Syria. It all started when the CEO and Founder of Smart Hand, Ahmed Haj Moussa, was in the Red Cross. He met a 10 years child. He was missing five fingers and was in need of a prosthesis. Moussa took the child’s measurements to create a prosthesis for him. Seeing the child use the mechanical fingers, inspired Moussa to start his own project to help Syrian children in the same situation.
How Smart Hand Made Prostheses Accessible to Syrians
Moussa found that prosthetics receive little attention from humanitarian organizations. This is mostly due to the high cost of the product. He started thinking of ways to provide less costly prosthetics to those in need. Smart Hand locally manufactures its products using cheaper materials. The 3D printed prostheses are made from bioplastic, which is a lightweight material, so it does not strain the child’s neck and back As a result. Moussa was able to make prosthetic implants more accessible to the Syrian population.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, over 50,000 people have suffered from injuries resulting in amputations. These kinds of injuries leave psychological scars as well as physical ones. Children are especially susceptible to having some sort of psychological damage after a traumatic and violent experience.
Operating in a War Zone
Smart Hand was founded in 2018. “We actually started in a shelter for displaced people, it consisted of a 2-by-1-meters, which only had space for single printer”. Moussa struggled to launch the startup due to factors such as the logistics of importing raw materials into a war zone. Moreover, frequent electricity cuts that stop the printers from operating. However, Moussa powered through the hardest of times and he hopes to expand beyond Aleppo to other Syrian cities.
In 2019, the company launched Smart Hand Heroes which provides children with colorful, decorated prostheses. Smart Hand Heroes was inspired by another child that Moussa encountered. “A child came to us, he said I want a hand like Batman’s, so we made a black and yellow hand for him,” says Moussa. The boy loved his new hand and he was proudly showing it off to everyone at school the next day.
The number of composite parties by Smart Hand up to 100 prostheses by 01/03/2020. The e-NABLE organization for artificial limbs has ranked “Smart Hand” the first in the Arab world and the second in the around the world in terms of the number of composite prosthetic limbs, which were all manufactured with 3D printing technology.