RACV Solar, Tesla batteries power Philip Island prosthetic hand manufacturer

A Victorian charity that uses 3D printers to manufacture prosthetic hands for children around the world is now being powered by solar and Tesla battery storage, through an initiative led by RACV Solar.

RACV Solar said on Monday that it had installed a 30kW solar power system on the Free 3D Hands factory at Cowes on Philip Island, alongside two Powerwall batteries, with the support of Tesla, Fronius, Trina Solar, Bass Coast Shire Council, Phillip Island RSL and local schools.

Free 3D Hands founder, Mat Bowtell, said the new PV and battery system would shield the factory from problems with the local electricity grid, which in the past had adversely affected its mission of providing state-of-the-art prosthetics at no cost. Traditionally manufactured prosthetic hands, which children outgrow quickly, can cost as much as $20,000.

“Even the smallest disruption to the power supply during production means we need to scrap the printed materials and start again,” Bowtell said. “It not only costs us time and money, but causes delays getting the devices to the children who need them the most.

“The new solar panels and batteries provide us with the certainty that we will no longer have those issues and we can keep doing what we love, which is making hands for kids and helping those in need.”

Free 3D Hands has also recently repurposed its printers to manufacture face shields for healthcare workers on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the Australian state that has been hardest hit by the virus.

“In March, we knew there was a shortage of personal protective equipment for Australian doctors and nurses battling Covid-19. We wanted to help, so we changed focus and began printing face shields free of charge to help medical workers on the frontline,” Bowtell said.

RACV Solar CEO Andy McCarthy said it was a no-brainer to help Free 3D Hands to get access to a cheaper and more secure power supply considering the work they were doing for children in need, and for Victoria during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“RACV Solar has been on a mission to provide all Victorians with more sustainable and reliable electricity supply,” McCarthy said in a statement.

“We’re proud to be able to help community groups and charities, like Free 3D Hands, who give back so much to the community in what has been a very difficult year for many.”

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