Additive Manufacturing: Enabling Technologies during Childhood (ETeC)
The project “Additive Manufacturing: Enabling Technologies during Childhood” (ETeC) examines technological development processes of the 3D printed hand “Robotel” (turkish: robot hand) designed for children from a perspective at the intersection of the sociology of the body and sociology of technology (or Science and Technology Studies, STS). The focus of this research are questions of interdisciplinary coordination and organization of the design for a 3D Robotel taking into account children, parents, technicians, medical practitioners, etc. “Additive manufacturing” and cheap 3D printing processes that open up new possibilities of body modification play a major role in this investigation. Furthermore, this project seeks to understand the influence of children and their bodies towards the technological advancement process and how they manage the Human-Machine adaptation during adolescence. Positioned within the research cluster “Human, Medicine and Society” of the Orient Institute Istanbul, this methodologically qualitative research project will be realized in close partnership with “Robotel Türkiye”.
Historically, within the field of medicine the development and production of prostheses for children was predominantly inefficient due to accelerated growth. This stands in stark contrast to the imperative of patient care. Children only received prostheses during adolescence. Ensuing the Thalidomide birth defect crisis (marketed as Contergan in West Germany) during the 1970s, medical practitioners as well as prostheses manufacturers were determined to provide prostheses for children’s bodies that reflected their individual needs. The children, however, rejected these due to various reasons (too heavy, already learned use of feet, etc.). While traditionally standardization/ normalization within prosthetics complicate individual prosthetic solutions, emerging 3D printing technologies enable individual and cheap solutions tailored to the needs of children’s bodies.
Initiated by Zeynep Karagöz in 2014, “Robotel Türkiye” is a platform for the construction of individually customized 3D printed hands and arms in Turkey. It is also part of the worldwide network “e-NABLE” and follows its motto: “Enabling the Future – Giving the World a Helping Hand.” The platform specializes in bringing together children with malpositions of the hand with volunteers from varied backgrounds. Engineers, programmers, medical practitioners, “techno tinkerers”/ technological innovators, companies as well as individuals, all work together and offer their 3D printers and help for the production of individually tailored 3D printed hands. But how is a 3D printed “robotel” produced that is specifically designed for children?
So far, sociological perspectives have only marginally analyzed the advancement process of technologies with regard to the development of prostheses. In order to approach this desideratum, this research project focuses on “additive manufacturing” and body modification enabled via affordable 3D printing processes. Furthermore, the importance of growing bodies for the technological body modification has been approached neither from a perspective informed by the sociology of technology nor sociology of the body. Additionally, there is a lack of studies regarding the impact of the “morphological self-determination” of children in conjunction with specific cultural notions of self-determination in combination with body modification. This research gap will be filled with a new study about infant body modification via 3D printing technologies.