3D Printing & Health: Makerism Beyond Fun or Profit

3D Printing & Health: Makerism Beyond Fun or Profit

Maker culture can be a broad concept: not only can it expand to cover activities such as 3D printing, programming, knitting, papercraft, rocketry, and more, but the outcomes of makers’ creations can also be vastly different. Some makers create in order to sell their products and make a living by doing what they love. Others may create just for the fun of it, and to explore new things. Here on MakerBridge, we talk a lot about making not only for fun but for education, as well.

None of these outcomes is mutually exclusive, of course, and we at MakerBridge believe it’s important to bring making into schools and libraries to help facilitate these outcomes. One other important outcome of making–and another great reason to help spread knowledge of making as much as possible–is makers using their creations to save lives and to improve the health of both people and animals.

Below are just a few examples of how 3D printing has recently been used in health and medicine as makers work to improve the world around them.

Magic Arms — A little girl, born without the ability to lift her arms under her own power, has her life changed with a 3D printed “magic arms” apparatus that is custom-fit for her and her needs.

Tracheal splint — A 3D printed tracheal splint saves the life of a baby with a rare condition who struggles to breathe on his own.

Photo of mother and her child with 3D printed splint attached to his neck
Photo used with CC-BY 3.0 permission from University of Michigan Health System

Cyborg ear — Scientists develop a 3D printed “cyborg” ear that contains cartilage and hears with electronics.

Robohand — A South African carpenter works with a man from Seattle to create 3D printed mechanical hands for people who have lost one or were born without one.

Prosthetic face — A man left with a gaping hole in his face after the removal of a tumor received a 3D printed prosthetic custom-made to match him.

Project Shellter — The MakerBot community has banded together to design and create shells using 3D printers for homeless hermit crabs due to a shortage of natural homes for the animals.


A man holds up a hermit crab and a 3D printed shell
Photo from MakerBot blog article (linked above)

Duck foot — A duck named Buttercup, born with a deformed foot, is given a prosthetic that allows him to walk again.

Dog wheelchair — A MakerBot intern designs and prints a wheelchair device to help support her dog with degenerative disc disease.

Bald eagle beak — A bald eagle who lost the top of her beak to a poacher is able to feed and preen herself again thanks to a 3D printed prosthetic beak.


Before and after pictures of eagle with prosthetic beak replacement
Photo from Boing Boing article (linked above)

These are only some of the many examples of how 3D printing has been improving and changing the lives of people and animals. There are also plenty more examples of how other types of making have contributed to the fields of health and medicine. Helping someone get started as a maker in a school or a library could end up making a huge difference–you never what that person might go on to create.

Do you know of other ways makers have saved lives or changes lives for the better? Leave them in the comments below!


Image Credit: “3D Printed Skull” by Flickr user Pete Prodoehl

Share Button