Let’s Give Chad a Hand

Thursday, May 21, 2015
Let's Give Chad a Hand

Charles "Perry" Weinthal, an electrical engineering graduate student at Florida Atlantic University, gives new meaning to "lending a helping hand." After noticing that his classmate had a disability, Perry approached Chad Coarsey, 25, also an engineering graduate student, and offered to build him a new hand using a 3D printer. Chad was born without fingers and only knuckles on his left hand and spent most of his life working, playing and functioning without the use of a prosthetic.

Intrigued by the offer, Chad said "yes" and the two of them teamed up together for a bioengineering class project called “Let’s Give Chad a Hand.” Perry had done a lot of prior research into 3D printers and also worked as a volunteer at FAU High School where his daughter attends, and knew that the school had printers readily available in their Robotics Laboratory.

They used a model for Chad's hand from a design provided by a non-profit group called Enabling the Future, which helps people who are missing limbs. Using this model, Perry altered the design to better fit Chad’s hand and began printing the pieces one layer at a time. Using inexpensive materials like polylactic acid, similar to fishing line and available in a multitude of colors, he printed Chad’s prosthetic hand in about 10 hours. It took another two hours to assemble and cost less than a $100 to make – compared to a professional made prosthetic hand that costs about $42,000.


With his new hand, Chad is able work more quickly and efficiently in the laboratory where he often uses test tubes and pipettes. He can catch and throw a ball, use two hands on the steering wheel while driving and even lift a three-liter bottle of water.

Perry and Chad want to help others in need of limbs and recently designed and printed a 3D hand for a six-year-old boy who had the same disability as Chad. They hope to eventually start their own non-profit organization to help others in similar situations as Chad's including injured veterans.

"When innovation and compassion come together, there’s no telling what can be accomplished," said Mohammad Ilyas, Ph.D., Dean of FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. "We are so proud of these two students and our outstanding faculty who work collaboratively to touch people's lives through technology."