The Houston Astros' first ever championship will be what most remember about their thrilling World Series' victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, though smack dab in the middle, right before Game 4, was a storyline you just had to love, independent of your favorite team or interest-level in sports.
On this particularly mild Saturday evening at Minute Maid Park in Houston, seven-year-old Hailey Dawson, born with the rare genetic disorder Poland Syndrome, lobbed the ceremonial first pitch to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve using her 3D-printed prosthetic hand. It was wide left, but way more on target than this attempt by former president Obama, who is a grown man and used his actual hand.
We went into detail about how this moment could change the general public's perception of 3D printing, and you simply need to peruse @Haileys_Hand, run by Hailey's mom Yong Dawson, to see the major league coverage dedicated to Hailey put 3D printing tech in a very bright spotlight.
Here's a video by the MLB that recaps the whole event.
Along with making a little girl's dreams come true, this story perfectly encapsulates what 3D-printing can accomplish in terms of quick and affordable custom manufacturing.
For this game, engineering students at UNLV used a Stratasys printer to make a Navy blue and gold hand, with "Vegas Strong" emblazoned on the wrist. For such a huge moment, it's obvious that the students went all out to produce their best prosthetic hand yet.
But Hailey wants to throw out the first pitch in every stadium, and each team needs their own specific hand. Cardinals' fans wouldn’t take too kindly to her sporting a hand with the Cubs' logo, and vice versa. A new hand, or at least removable faceplate must be created for each of the 27 remaining teams on Hailey's list. (Previously, Hailey threw out the first pitch for the Orioles in 2015 and Nationals this past summer.)
This will cost only a few hundred bucks, less than it would cost for Hailey's mom, dad Greg and brother Zach to actually attend a game. If you asked an artisan or conventional manufacturer to create the same work, it would take many thousands of dollars and hours of work. That's not even considering without 3D printing, the geometry of Hailey's hand, which operates via articulated digits attached to fishing line that tenses up as Hailey bends her wrist, would be far too complex to make using conventional manufacturing methods.
From a timing standpoint, it takes about 13 hours to print and another six to eight hours of post-processing to make one hand.
Aside from the actual engineering, the great thing about huge feel-good moments like this is that it took so many engineers to pull it off, and each have their own story to tell: The folks at Stratasys who work with so many universities and schools to get 3D printers in the classroom, the people who designed and open-sourced the prosthetics to be printed, and the UNLV students themselves.
One of these grad students, Maria Gerardi, recently discussed how she helped make Hailey's hands for the last three years on Nevada's NPR station. Listen Here.
This is the major crux of our belief in how important this story is. It's no secret that we're facing a huge industrial skills gap, there's a warped perception of manufacturing as dirty, and more women need to get into STEM fields.
Deloitte estimates 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled by 2025 if things don’t change.
You present this story to every elementary school class, and things are sure to change. At worst, you've convinced at least a few girls that science and technology are awesome, you've shown all kids that manufacturing doesn't have to be dirty and can do a lot of good, and guaranteed that a much larger percentage of kids are at least amenable to helping fill the skills gap. So you could actually say Hailey has done more for manufacturing with her little pinky than many in industry have done in their life. And she's just getting started.