Contributed to EO by Peta Strachan, Operations Manager at Free 3D Hands, a mission-based charity in Australia that designs and 3D-prints prosthetic hands and assistive devices for free.
Earlier this year, EO members from all around Australia attended EO Ignite – Reignite Your Passion, a regional event at stunning Hamilton Island, located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Mat Bowtell, the founder and CEO of Free 3D Hands, was invited to deliver the keynote presentation at EO Ignite.
At Free 3D Hands, we design, manufacture and provide quality hands and assistive devices to people all around the world for free—we even pay the postage! We use 3D printing technology and advanced CAD design software to produce quality, functional designs for children and adults who often have no commercially available option. We freely share our designs under an open-source license, so that others can make their own devices and as a way to encourage further innovation in the field.
Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that over 35 million people require prosthetics or orthotics, but only 10 percent of people can access or afford these life-changing products. The goal of Free 3D Hands is to significantly bring down the cost of assistive technology to help those who currently cannot access or afford it. We are developing a low-cost, multi-grip Bionic Arm, and we are making exciting progress with the latest prototype. Our goal is to make the equivalent of an AUD $60,000 Bionic Arm—for under $60 in parts!
Mat Bowtell was honoured to deliver the first keynote presentation of the EO Ignite event and received an absolutely overwhelming response from EO members after his talk. Mat, a former senior engineer at Toyota, was made redundant during the closure of the automotive industry in Australia in 2017. He turned down lucrative consulting jobs and international offers to pursue his passion for making hands for kids, and he wanted to do it for free. Using his redundancy payout, he worked for two years as a volunteer before formally establishing Free 3D Hands as a charity supported by public speaking, donations and corporate sponsorship.
We were incredibly moved by the emotion and support from EO members, many of whom were in tears after hearing Mat speak about his journey to help others. A number of EO members got together and, after consulting with the group, got on stage to announce that collectively, the EO members in attendance were able to pledge nearly AUS$50,000 to our charity! Every cent has been received and will help support our global design hub to continue to release free designs and collaborate with volunteer groups in developing countries to establish 3D printing clinics and make low-cost assistive devices available to those truly in need.
Shivani Gupta, an EO Queensland member and Engagement Expert for APAC, shared her response to Mat’s presentation:
“Mat’s presentation on his WHY and dedicating his work and love to a greater good had me in tears. The stories he shares and the passion he exudes are what every entrepreneur needs to hear.
I was moved by his presentation and got up to ask anyone else who was moved whether they would like to join me and make a tax-deductible donation—over 50 people said YES. That made the conference for me!
I would encourage other EO chapters and members to hire Mat as a speaker, be inspired by him, implement his ways into your business, and if you can donate or link him to others who can—do it!”Shivani Gupta, EO Queensland
Mat and I stayed on for the next few days, and we were wholeheartedly embraced by the EO community during our visit. We absolutely loved getting to know everyone, hearing about their individual business journeys, and discovering what EO is all about. Since our talk, we have had members from around Australia come and visit our Design Centre and continue to offer support.
We just want to say a huge “Thank You” to the EO members who welcomed us, cared and truly understood the ethos of Free 3D Hands and will continue to help us grow and support others. We hope to have the opportunity to meet some international EO members in the future!