Prep Uses 3-D Printing to Make Prosthetic Hand

Since the beginning of the school year physics teacher Ms. Marsha Hobbs and Prep senior Matthew Clay have been diligently working to design and produce a prosthetic hand – and not just a toy one. The hand is being given to Braden McCay, a 6-year-old Madison resident, who is missing all of his fingers and the majority of his wrist.

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Senior Matthew Clay presents the newly-fabricated hand.

The opportunity was presented to Prep when Rick Psonak, a local prosthetist approached the school with the idea.

3-D printers have an unlimited variety of purposes, and in recent years there has been exploration in making various prosthetic limbs. Printing limbs has proved to function well and be economical. A traditional prosthetic hand would cost over 10 times what the materials cost for the printed limb costs.

The process is fairly straightforward: Find the general design online, make adjustments for the specific application, print the pieces, cut/polish the pieces, and assemble.

Hobbs handled the design and printing aspect of the build – she spent upwards of 20 hours working on it, along with countless hours of planning.

The cutting/polishing was handled by Matthew Clay. Matthew had a background making retainers at an orthodontist over the summer; this gave him the necessary skills to work and shape the plastic.  When Hobbs approached him, and he accepted right away. It took him approximately 20-25 hours of work as well. Clay and Hobbs worked together to assemble the hand.

The hand was given to Braden on Wednesday, September 30, in the Fab Lab of Prep’s senior high building. According to Matthew Clay, “we have some minor details to fix” with the fit of the wrist, but, on the whole, “it turned out awesome. We are so happy with it.”

Judging from the smiles in the Fab Lab, that was the prevailing sentiment.


Ms. Marsha Hobbs shows off the new hand for the assembled media.


Photo courtesy of Bethany Johnson.
Photo courtesy of Bethany Johnson.
Photo courtesy of Bethany Johnson.