A Hairdressers Dream: Recycling Old Shampoo Bottles to Make Prosthetic Limbs

September 11, 2019

Bernie Craven, a retired hairdresser, has come up with the idea of turning old shampoo bottles from salons into prosthetics limbs for children. Two children are currently trialling the prototypes and if they are successful, Bernie Craven will be able to continue making the plastic prosthetics for children who need them.

The Idea

Eleven year old Connor and twelve year old Haley are the first children to have received 3D printed prosthetic limbs made from bottles of shampoo and conditioner that salons have been using.

The concept was born over two years ago when Mr Craven was working as a hairdresser and noticed the amount of waste the salon was producing, so he started investigating uses for the plastic waste. “As a hairdresser for over 40 years, I knew how much waste was coming through the salons, and there is a point in time when you’ve got to be responsible for what you are producing,” he said.

Mr Craven pointed out that there are many people and manufacturers around the world printing products through 3D printers using normal filament, however, very few are using recyclables to do it. He is hoping to solve a plastic waste issue from salons and aid with providing prosthetics to those who cannot afford them.

The Beneficiaries

Keen motorbike and rugby league player, Haley Wright, from Kilkivan, was born without her left hand. She said having two hands would impact her life massively, especially for everyday activities.

She comments, “Skipping, tying up my hair, those sorts of things.”

Amanda Quinn, Haley’s mother, said there had never been an opportunity for Haley to have a prosthetic limb until hearing about the project on social media, she immediately thought of her daughter.

“I’m hoping that she can deal with it emotionally, to learn to adapt to having hand she’s never had,” Ms Quinn said.

Connor Wyvill was also born without his left hand and he’s already been discussing the colours he would love for his prosthetic hand. Connor’s previous prosthetics have been impractical and very expensive so not a viable option for a growing teenager, his parents David and Amada say this is the opportunity of a lifetime for Connor.

The Process

Bionic limbs can cost upwards of $20,000, however, 3D printing cuts costs significantly and with the technology being very new, it’s only going to improve. There are 38 salons working with Mr Craven, helping provide the used shampoo and conditioner bottles, which will inevitably end up in landfill sites anyway.

“We pick up the plastic bottles, and other types of plastic, bring it back to our warehouse, sort it and then we actually shred it,” he said.

The shredded plastic is then put through a machine and turned into the 3D filament to use in the printer. It took 9 hours for the first prototype to print nearly 42 metres of extruded plastic. The prosthetics are still in the testing stage at the moment, but Mr Craven believes it should take around 15 to 20 bottles to create one hand.

e-NABLE is an international not for profit organisation. They’re a network of volunteers who create prosthetics using 3D printers. The organisation has donated the hand kits used to put the final prosthetics together and even include rubber fingertips.

Mr Craven is hoping that that the trial with Haley and Connor will be a success, believing if so, the limbs will soon be commercially viable.

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