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Dix Hills library giving patrons a chance to assemble 3-D-made hands for those in need

An audience member tries on a prosthetic hand

An audience member tries on a prosthetic hand device for children, made with a 3-D printer, during a demonstration on the printing and assembling process at the Half Hollow Hills Community Library Dix Hills Branch on Sept. 20, 2015, in Dix Hills. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Dix Hills library patrons will soon be the latest volunteers to donate prosthetic hands to people nationwide and around the world.

Sunday, more than 80 patrons flocked to the Half Hollow Hills Community Library to learn about artificial hands created through 3-D printing.

The library has partnered with e-Nable, a global organization that donates 3-D printed prosthetic hands to people in need.

John and Justine Diamond, two e-Nable volunteers, talked to visitors about the organization, which was founded in 2013 by Jon Schull, a research scientist at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The online community counts more than six thousand people worldwide as members. More than 1,500 prosthetic hands have been donated in 37 countries.

Dozens signed up Sunday for kits containing roughly 40 preprinted parts they will assemble into prosthetic hands. The library will then collect the hands for donation.

Due to high demand, the library will print out more kits on its MakerBot 3-D printer.

Various 3-D prosthetic hands were passed around during the presentation, from a pastel child-sized version, to a patriotic adult-sized one suitable for Captain America. Audience members tried the hands on for size and practiced making fists.

E-Nable mostly donates prosthetics to children, and its volunteers create custom models in all colors and sizes, said Justine Diamond. The superhero theme is particularly popular with children with some requesting hands emblazoned with Batman's iconic black-and-yellow logo.

The 3-D hands are donated for free and distributed by e-Nable. The organization uses six hand designs, which are open-source files available for download on its website. The hands are made out of nontoxic plastic filament. Though they're not fully functioning prosthetic devices, which e-Nable's website estimates can cost between $6,000 and $10,000, the 3-D hands are less than $50 and can be used for many routine tasks.

There's a long waitlist of people with limb loss who want 3-D printed devices. e-Nable's volunteers are working on designs for different types of upper-limb loss.

The library purchased its $3,000 MakerBot printer in the spring, and Ellen Druda, the library's technology and Internet services librarian, said it's been a major attraction for people of all ages. "Everyone wants to make something for the heck of it," Druda added. Patrons can sign up to use the printer to create everything from sculptures to medical devices, all rendered in plastic filament.

Now, people can use the printer to give a helping hand.

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