Commonwealth Point of Light 94. Mat Bowtell
Mat Bowtell, representing Australia, is an engineer who has used his professional skills to design and create 3D printed limbs for thousands of families worldwide for free.
While traditional prosthetic fingers can cost up to $6,000, Mat’s revolutionary ‘kinetic finger’ can be made for under $1 in materials. Determined to make devices that are accessible to all, Mat began designing functional hands and fingers that could be created quickly and cheaply by a 3D printer. Rather than licence his designs for profit, Mat has made them freely available to download online so that anyone with access to a 3D printer can make them. Mat’s designs have been downloaded more than 3,000 times, saving recipients an estimated $18 million. After being made redundant from the automotive industry in 2017, he now works as a full-time volunteer helping children and adults in Australia and around the world, including one recipient in Japan who could play the piano for the first time in a decade.
“I am very honoured to receive this kind recognition from Her Majesty The Queen, giving me confidence and affirmation that ‘Free 3D Hands’ is heading in the right direction. I would like to acknowledge all of the incredible support and encouragement from my wife and children, and thank all of the generous people who have helped us through crowd-funding to make Free 3D Hands a reality. I dream of a world where assistive devices are accessible to all people around the world. Through making all of our designs open-source, I am also hoping to encourage prosthetic and bionic developers to innovate and use smarter engineering to bring their costs down. I believe that as a society we have a fundamental responsibility to look after those who are less fortunate than ourselves. If I charged even $10 for a hand, then to me it would only be worth $10. But when you give it to someone for free with no expectation of reward, then it becomes priceless. Volunteering has helped me to find my true purpose in life and has given me more satisfaction than I could have ever imagined. Each one of us has special talents and abilities that can be shared to improve the lives of others.”
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