With 10,000 miles separating them, two makers designed and built a customizable 3-D-printed prosthetic hand for a 5-year old boy named Liam in South Africa for $150 in parts. No power necessary.
The idea for Liam's hand started out as Rich Van As's nightmare accident. When Van As, an artisan carpenter, chopped off four of his fingers with a table saw, he vowed to get mechanical replacements. So Van As, in South Africa, researched for months. But only found the X-finger, which costs thousands of dollars. That's when Van As stumbled on a YouTube video of a velociraptor-like claw made by Ivan Owen, a mechanical special effects artist in Bellingham, WA. Van As tried to replicate the design, but soon realized he needed Owen to "lend me a hand." And the two swapped ideas over email, a blog, Skype sessions, and finally in person at Van As's workshop in South Africa over four days in November, 2012.
There are other open source prosthetic ideas, but none quite as developed. The result is a way to blend low-tech mechanics and fast prototyping with 46 parts — sixteen 3-D-printed pieces, 28 off the shelf (which included nylon cord, nuts and bolts, elastic, and rubber thimbles). The 3-D parts were made possible by Makerbot, which donated two 3-D printers, one each for Van As and Owen so they could swap CAD files as they refined the designs.
Two custom-ordered thermoplastic components personalize the fit, so anyone can take the open-source plans and build their own fingers.
"The devices we have made are body powered using whatever function the person has," Owen wrote in an email to PopSci. Van As's prosthetic is controlled by pulling on a cam system with what's left of his original digits to contract the artificial finger.
And that's how Van As and Owen gave Liam, who was born without fingers on one side, a new right hand in January on Liam's birthday. Liam can hold a basketball, and even pick up small things like coins by activating his new lightweight hand with a bend of his wrist. The duo wants to raise funds to further develop the Robohand. Owen said the strength of the plastic exceeds human exertion, which means Liam can grow into the Robohand, which in turn can scale larger.
Liam's mother, Yolandi, wrote to Van As and Owen, that Liam's "not shy at all to show all his Robohand. His little school he goes to was a huge hit all the teacher's & kiddies were in awe..."
When a man desperately needs a functioning limb the medical community wants to sell him one that costs as much as a house. Its time that the average Joe has access to technology that can deliver a functioning part for a reasonable cost, $150 for a hand compared to $150.000 from the medical community. America has the 5-6 best medical community in the world but the costs are 5 times higher than #1. We need access to this kind of machine shop technology. Space age tech is good but sometimes function is the important thing and looks are second place.
Not to be rude, I am just curious in the function of this device. I wonder what the child hand looks like and I wonder how it interfaces with the device on the inside?
God bless this little BOY!
This is a great story. Just looking at the soring costs of healthcare in the United States makes me sick. It is nice to read about a medical device that changes someones life without costing tens of thousands of dollars.
I absolutely love this story.
Awesome. Anybody else thinking Ash from Army of Darkness?
Just think,if these guys had submitted their ideas to the Pentagon they could have gotten a million (or more) dollar grant to develop it. Glad they didn't. It is in an altruistic environment that low budget tech such as this can become commonplace, so my hats off to these guys, Great Job!
These guys are heroes. Thank you for showing what is possible with imagination, technology and the will to do something.
I have one hand (born that way; a bit less than the kid has) and I think this is a terrible thing. Why? If you read some other accounts, you can see what is behind the mother's quote "Liam’s mother, Yolandi, wrote to Van As and Owen, that Liam’s "not shy at all to show all his Robohand. His little school he goes to was a huge hit all the teacher’s & kiddies were in awe...""
Basically, it looks like his parents have a lot of guilt and pity their child. So, if this kid gets hooked on the hand, what happens when it breaks? Is he then crippled?
BTW - I have played football, baseball, rock climbed, skied, and build houses for a hobby. You are only crippled as you think you are.
My folks were wise - they ignored my lack of a hand. I know, as an adult with a child, that was not easy on them, but it really is the best way. My father never met a child labor law he paid attention to.
The tech is cool. The application is not wise. If I had my hand chopped off, I might use it, but not now.
embedded nerd. member of quelab.net.
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