Mat Bowtell is the founder and CEO of Free 3D Hands, an Australian charity who designs and 3D prints hands and assistive devices. The hands are provided for free, to children and adults all around the world and they even pay the postage! Mat freely shares his designs under an open-source licence so others can make and repair their own devices and to encourage further innovation. Mat's goal is to significantly bring down the cost of assistive technology to help those who currently cannot access or afford it.
Mat was working as an engineer for Toyota in Australia and Japan before being made redundant in 2017 when the automotive industry shut down. He had made one hand, for one kid, with one 3D printer whilst he was still employed. This grew to two printers on the dining table, then six in the spare room! It was not long after his final day at work that Mat was named the Australian of the Year – Vic Local Hero for 2018 and he then knew what he was going to do with his future. Mat and his very understanding wife Yuka worked for two years as volunteers, living off his redundancy payout, to design and 3D print hands for kids. He relocated with his family to his hometown of Phillip Island and was working out of a single car garage. In 2019 the opportunity arose to lease a factory and through generous support Mat was able to establish Free 3D Hands as registered charity in Australia. He has now made hundreds of hands and assistive devices for people all around the world. In October 2020 he released his new Kinetic Hand design under an open source licence and to date it has been downloaded over 4500* times! Mat is currently working on the development of a low-cost bionic arm which will be the equivalent of an approximately $60k arm....for under $60 in parts! There are over a billion people in the world who require some form of assistive technology and this number is set to double by 2030*. Currently only 1 in 10* people have access to the products they require. Mat believes that by openly sharing technology and ideas and by collaborating with others, more people will be able to access or afford the technology they need.