3D printing has allowed him to change what would otherwise be seen as a disability into a positive attribute
Shea, Bella, Haley, Evan—these are just a few of the children that Frankie Flood has fitted with prosthetic hands over the years. An associate art professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, (NC), Flood’s profession is teaching students the intricacies of digital manufacturing and metalsmithing. His passion is helping others, whether it’s making superheroes out of disabled kids or soldiers who’ve been hurt while serving our country.
Flood grew up in a farming community, so was surrounded by machinery and equipment during his early years, and on weekends helped his father tinker on various projects. But it wasn’t until his college years that he became heavily involved in manufacturing. His summer months were spent working at a printing company, then later at a tool and die shop. He became interested in jewelry making along the way, melding his passion for making beautiful yet functional objects with his nascent fabrication skills.
Flood put those skills to work while teaching at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. He built his own 3D printer, and through collaboration with the then fledgling volunteer group e-NABLE, helped develop prosthetic hands for children who’d been born with missing fingers or had suffered amputations. And rather than profit by his work, he and the others at e-NABLE made their designs open source, then helped patients and their families take advantage of the new technology.