Enable Pre-Conference


Maria Esquela led a discussion of people who came early to the conference.  This included a group from the First 1511 Team from Rochester NY, a group from Enable Evansville, a couple of presenters from  Florida Atlantic University as well as individual members.  Maria showed us a prototype and several revisions of a Gripper Thumb as well as a few other hands.  This one is the first prototype of one of the latest designs.  I see it called the Gripper Thumb and the Jedi Hand.   I was hoping to print our hands in nylon as I thought it would hold up really well.  She mentioned that nylon absorbs oils and dirt from sweat  Perhaps the material is not be best for our farmer and auto worker after all.  This hand is a “reverse grip”- you have to apply power to it to open it and its resting position is closed.  So, if you want to grip and carry something, this is more comfortable. The strong bands hold with a strong grip.  The original hand had all the fingers connected.  In the later design, the fingers have been separated so that a glove may be put over the hand.

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Over the next few days, the morning sessions included calls to different eNABLE Chapters across the world.  I can’t do justice to the content of these sessions.  A few highlights will be mentioned.

Syria:  We discussed with Syria the problem of power going out frequently.  Trying to 3D print parts that take many hours is difficult when power is unstable- not just blinking off, but staying off for hours and being unpredictable.


It was noted that Syria won’t accept hands that are not pretty enough.  The hands will sit un-donated rather than be used.  Elastic does not last well in this region- elastic will not last even a day.

Haiti:  Haiti was provided hands by a group of scouts.  There is a doctor stationed in Port a Prince to work with the users.  Haiti has a printer and prints in TPE.  Haiti has issues with getting a consistent water supply.  They use Indian Wells pumps that have frequent breakdowns of their gaskets.  Haiti is printing gaskets to keep these pumps in service as that is a big need and the best use of their printer.  They also mentioned something called a Plumcase.  This is a mobile power and connectivity case that can give you a hot spot even with very low signals.

Since power outages are common in many areas, knowing how long a partial print can sit before being resumed is critical information.

On our way to our next session, we caught a glimpse of this:


Spacecraft flight simulator!!  It was difficult to walk on by!  More on that later!!!

The next session was tearing apart a Cube 3D printer and comparing it to ones that were more open and easy to see.  It was sturdy, elements covered and hard to get to, and the electronics were well supported and secured.  But it was noted that the HOT extruders were right by the electronics boards with no vents (all was solidly encased in the plastic shell) or fans.  Other than that, it was basically the same extruder, filament feed, and print bed as other printers.

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The next tour that we wandered into was one of the many 3D printing labs at U of M.  This group is in charge of all the printers on the U of Maryland campus and they put printers where they will be most used, so there are various types near the groupings of labs (such as for the biology majors, engineers, health care, etc., In this room, they mainly had one kind (the Makerbot replicator because it can be networked and all controlled easily from a central station).  The workers here are the experts in printing.  The students design what they want printed and the workers take care of it.  The workers let them know if there are problems with the files that would prevent them from printing.





Enablecon 2018 – Day 1

As an attendee at Enablecon 2018, here are some of my observations.  I was a first-time attendee and didn’t get to see everything.  Please ask questions of anything that you found curious!  Hopefully other attendees can add detail.


Digital Harbor Foundation

Before the conference started, some of us visited the Digital Harbor Foundation:  This is a maker space for kids 18 and under.  They assemble hands for the Enable Alliance.  There are five 3D printers in the 6th grade-and-under room alone!  I counted twenty-eight in the teen room along with equipment to learn about coding, prototyping, and more.  There were about 4 trainers there already preparing for students to come in later.  They were very welcoming to our questions!


They had two printers of the same brand as our school’s.  They gave tips on how to improve our print quality.  Please see a pic of one of theirs – it caught fire.  They let me know that it was a firmware issue that they addressed right away by the manufacturer!  Seeing what we can learn from things that don’t work is a valuable part of the learning process!


The big things that made this place special, was that there was a comfortable atmosphere for learning, all the tools available, and knowledgeable people there to get the kids started.  It was lively, engaging, and just said “stay and play” to us.3


The Foundry

The same engaging atmosphere was present when we visited The Foundry.  The Foundry is a makerspace that had equipment for woodworking, embroidery, 3-D printers, sheet metal work, blacksmithing, and more.


The amount of equipment available for making your inventions come to life was impressive.  They have training classes for all the equipment with sign-offs so you can work independently.  There were people to teach skills and welcome people.  However, they will not make the items for people- they want to interest you enough to learn to do it yourself.




Upcoming Events

SAVE THE DATE: ENABLECON 2018 will be held at the University of Maryland College Park during Columbus Day Weekend October 5-6, 2018.

Attendees are invited to attend events bookending the e-NABLE Conference events:

Wednesday, October 3

  • Board training and volunteer leadership development training in the evening.

Thursday, October 4 and Friday, October 5

  • Web conferences with classrooms and volunteers unable to attend in person.
  • Skills workshops with Ed Choi, Christian Silva and others.
  • Discussion Groups
  • Case Review
  • Presentations
  • Site Visits/Tours
    • Local Motors, 3 D printing, scanning and CAD facilities at the National Harbor. Local Motors 3D prints cars and large shuttles like the Accessible Oli. It also distributing interactive, accessible shuttle stops around the country. Test these out and share what you learn about their customer service stations during the conference.
    • University of Maryland College Park printing labs for bioprinting, microprinting, and projects with the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Friday Evening, October 5: ENABLECON 2018 Science Fair Friday, 5 pm – 8:30 pm

  • Evening Science Fair with interactive presentations and exhibits
  • Opening of the e-NABLE Gallery of art, images, video, model devices, and e-NABLE Community timeline
  • Opening of poster sessions, featuring the points of view from
    • chapters, schools, clinics, makerspaces, e-NABLE workgroups
    • recipients, citizen scientists, clinicians and research teams

Saturday, October 6: ENABLECON 2018: “The State of the Science, Technology and Our Community”

  • 8 am – 2 pm  Vendors displays, Community Exhibits, Posters, Gallery open.
  • 8:45 am  Group Photo and Role Call
  • 9 am – 12:30 pm  Opening and keynote addresses, live streamed and recorded
  • 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm  Working lunches
  • 1:30 pm – 5:00 pm  Workshops, device reviews, discussion groups led by Ed Choi, Christian Silva, Jeremy Simon and others
  • Break for dinner, workgroups, judging for awards.
  • 7 pm – 9 pm Awards and Recognitions, and Costume Party

Sunday, October 7: Workgroups’ ENABLECON Summary and Community Planning Session

  • 8 am Birds of a Feather Meetup
  • 8:45 am Final repairs, fittings
  • 9:30 am – 12 pm Review of e-NABLE Community 2 year plan

If you are interested in presenting a poster, panel, presentation or workshop, please email your idea and plan for activity in the months leading up to the conference to enablealliance.apbls@gmail.com.


There are several events coming up that can bring us together and move our whole community forward.

Help with the e-NABLE Printer Project: 

  • Download and print the Printer Torture Test on your 3D printer.
  • Email your contact information, images and video of the results, identify the make and model of your printer, the material you printed, software slicer used, and the environmental conditions during printing to enablealliance.info@gmail.com.
  • Email results of attempts to print devices or other e-NABLE files, letting us know a little about who the print was for, and the device file you were trying to print- where you got it, how you customized it, the software used to do the CAD and slicing. If it failed, how far along into the print did the failure occur? If it succeeded, did you have to do any tweaking? Were you able to assemble and gift the device?
  • We will share an anonymized version of the data for the community to analyze to look for patterns and highlight areas for further development of a design, printable files or instructions.

If you are interested in printing a hand kit for others to assemble, please email enablealliance.info@gmail.com.

Camp e-NABLE will be held July 22-27 at the University of Maryland College Park. Children 8-12 with upper limb differences will customize and make their own e-NABLE device during a fun STEAM summer camp. This is a day camp for parents and children with upper limb differences to team up with medical and additive manufacturing engineers. Families and staff who don’t live in the area can arrange to have a dorm suite for the week and obtain campus cards for meals and access to the pool and other campus facilities. A huge thank you to the Whovian Running Club, who raised the funds needed to make this possible!  For more information or inquire about registering as staff or participants, please email enablealliance.apbls@gmail.com.

e-NABLE Summer Workshops will be held at summer camps, libraries, makerspaces and youth programs coast to coast. These groups have been matched with volunteers willing to print kits for them to assemble. During their assembly meetings, other e-NABLE volunteers teamed up with them will join them on-line to show youth how their kits were made, how the hands were designed, how they will be checked, and how they will be given the hands away to people who need them. Groups will be guided by preassembled models and printed instructions. A huge thank you to employee teams at Microsoft and student groups at University of Maryland, University of Illinois, FIRST Teams Rolling Thunder and Froggy Force, and the Hollow Hills Community Library for helping to make models and kits.

e-NABLE Nepal and volunteers from e-NABLE Canada and e-NABLE Western NY will set up a printing lab in Nepal. Experts on the trip include OTs and electrical engineers. Volunteers will test hardware and rehearse set up with the remote participation of e-NABLE volunteers who will support the lab after the lab installation, training sessions, and first activities testing devices, materials and fitting and gifting to recipients. Thank you to the SUNY Polytechnic Institute Living Classroom and the Economics and Engineering class for analyzing and testing 3D printers, 3D scanners, flesh-toned gloves, and classroom filament manufacturing technology as preparation for this mission trip.

Planning is underway for follow up visits with partners in Haiti and Nigeria. Congratulations to  e-NABLE volunteers who successfully completed mission trips in late spring!

  • Engineer Steve Owens just returned from a clinic in northeastern Haiti, meeting with medical staff to  evaluate e-NABLE devices and 3D printed medical equipment using files suggested by eNABLE volunteers in Africa. During discussions with the medical staff, local NGOs and government, Steve helped scout sites that can support a 3D printing lab and identified pathways for safely shipping and storing filament and other materials. Steve and his team also dug a well and set up a bottle purification station on the clinic property to give the area a secure source for clean water. Great work everyone!
  • Ed Choi, founder of e-NABLE Sierra Leone repaired printers and worked with other e-NABLE volunteers to set up 3 printers at an innovation lab in Nigeria. The volunteers brought devices that were reviewed and tested by a young boy from a displaced persons camp in the region who needed a prosthetic. Of all the devices tried on, the Unlimited arm and Kwawu hand fit best. Volunteers were inspired by the boy they helped, and enthusiasm at a grand launch attended by the Nigerian Vice President and other officials. A follow up visit this year will include training of volunteers and creation of a local chapter partnered with medical volunteers and artists Choi identified during his stay. This post will be updated with a link to a one-hour debrief.
  • These projects will have their own fundraising pages on our site, updated by media contacts for the projects.