Happy faces: Some of the recipients with their prostheses.

IN the R&D room of a shop in Faber Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Sujana Rejab is busy working on enhancing a prosthetic arm.

There are several 3D printers around, all in the process of synthesising materials into a 3D plastic arm. The machines work silently as the materials are being processed.

3D printing has been around for a while. For those who are clueless, it is about the synthesising of materials, particularly recycled or biodegradable plastic that are melted and then moulded into the required object.

Sujana, 49, was a teacher when he got inspired after reading some articles relating to 3D prosthetic devices.

A self-taught computer programmer, he founded MyVista in 2012 and made his first 3D printer from scratch at the end of 2013.

At that time, 3D printers weren’t widely available.

Sujana says since it was developed on an open source platform, people were free to build them according to their needs.

STARTING POINT

Around mid-2015, Sujana came across e-Nable Organisation. Founded by John Scholl, it is a virtual community based in the United States where ideas are floated and discussed on such technical matters as the design of prosthetic devices, the functionality of 3D printers, etc.

For the first time, Sujana saw images of 3D-printed prosthetic limbs in the chat group.

That inspired him to make his first 3D-printed hand which he donated to a six-year old girl who had lost her limbs in Kedah back in 2015.

“I was very happy to see the smile on her face that day. It was just overwhelming,” he said. Sujana has not looked back since. He went on to build more 3D-printed prosthetic limbs for those in need.

He thinks it’s something to do with him being a teacher. “Teachers are trained to assist students in their studies. In this new field, I am also in a position to assist, only now it is those unfortunate kids who have lost their limbs.”

The process of making a prosthetic limb varies from a day to months, depending on the recipient’s disability.

“The cost also varies. The cheapest is about RM250,” he said.

For his contribution to the 3D prosthetics field, Sujana was accorded the Agent for National Transformation Award by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission in 2015.

PARTNERSHIP IN DEED

Sujana credits his success in the field to research lab Spine & Joint, where the 3D prosthetics are printed.

The shop, which specialises in chiropractic and physiotherapy, is owned by Datuk Muhammad Arif Abdullah and his partner Dr Nick Boden. They create recycled plastic materials which can be turned into filament, a major component of 3D prosthetic arms.

“Without the recycled plastic, we will have to buy the finished products (filaments) which cost can cost up to RM300 a unit,” says Sujana.

At the moment, there are two types of 3D prosthetic arms. One is mechanical and the other is electronic. The latter is much more advanced, functioning via the an app installed in smartphones. The user of the prosthetic arm can open and close the fingers by just voicing it out the commands.

There are plans to incorporate the system into smartwatches in the future.

According to Muhammad Arif, the project is part of their corporate social responsibility efforts.

So far, they have distributed the prosthetics to countries such as Nepal, Singapore and Africa.

FUTURE PLANS

Muhammad Arif said they also planned to make prosthetic legs as well as focus more on recycled materials.

He’s hoping for a government grant or a sponsor as the products are expensive to make and maintain.

He can be contacted at 019-305 3000. For more details, go to lend-a-hand.org

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