Ivan Owen, a Man Who Deserves a Hand

When Ivan Owen, an artist, created a particular effect puppet hand prop for a steampunk event, he made a video using it and put it on YouTube.  Richard Van As, a carpenter in Africa, had just accidentally sawed off four of his fingers and (as a now-unemployed carpenter) was looking for a way to make a prosthetic finger device so he could get back to work. Since he didn’t have thousands of dollars to buy one, when he found Richard’s YouTube video, he reached out, and the two began working on making a functional prosthetic hand. As they collaborated, their work was seen by a woman who had a five-year-old, Liam Dippenaar, who was born without fingers. Ivan and Richard created a prosthetic hand for Liam, and then using that as a model, created a 3D model.


So he shared it for free

Ivan decided that instead of patenting the technology and becoming richer than Croesus, he’d open source it so that others could use what he’d learned to make their own prosthetic devices, and hopefully improve on the design.  

As a result, thousands of people all over the world are using the software to create parts and build 3D prosthetic devices for themselves and others. For example, a Home Depot employee, John 'Jack" Longo, in Annapolis, recently presented one to a boy. Longo  believes he's built approximately 120 of the devices.. 

Organized help

E-Nable, a non-profit organization devoted to providing a network for volunteers who create the devices for children and underserved populations.

As a result of their work, people who want to build a prosthetic device have access to the plans necessary to create one with some mechanical parts and a 3D printer. In fact, according to their map, there are local 3D printers capable of producing a prosthetic device at the Avondale, Hayden, Burton Barr, and Black Canyon City Libraries, among others.

Why it matters

Compared to a traditionally-built prosthetic hand, a 3D hand is lighter, cheaper, and can be made in one day and a variety of colors. It can be customizable to the recipient, who may want a specific design or for an activity such as riding a bike.


Prosthetic devices have to be measured and fitted to the recipient. Since 3D prosthetic devices a created spending very little money, this is ideal for children, who grow continuously and need to have a prosthetic device which fits them. There are success stories from all over. 

Will 3D devices replace traditional prosthetics? 

There are 30 million people in the world who need prosthetic devices, braces, or related mobility aid. Currently, fewer than 20% of them have what they need. 3D prosthetics is helping to fill a huge need, but there will always be the need for finely tuned prosthetic devices, Think of 3D prosthetic devices as a kind of supplement for the huge and growing need for these devices.

Ivan Owen continues to work in innovation and speaks frequently on behalf of supporting technology and creativity as solutions for the world's problems. And we think that's pretty special.

If you are looking for occupational or physical therapy, vestibular rehab, wheelchair training, learning to walk, unweighting, or other services in the Phoenix area, please call Touchstone Rehabilitation at 602-277-1073.