What do you do when you cannot afford a $30,000 prosthetic hand that your son needs?
Two years ago, Paul McCarthy began searching for an inexpensive yet functional prosthetic hand for his son Leon, who was born without fingers on one of his hands.
McCarthy came across a video online with detailed instruction on how to use a 3-D printer to make a prosthetic hand for his son. McCarthy made a prosthetic hand for his son for a cost of $5 and free time on a 3D printer.
Link if video does not play: prosthetic hand made by 3-D printer
Large Mechanical Hand
A “large mechanical hand” invention by Ivan Owen is what kicked off the technological progression to “Robohand”.
Here is an interesting, 49 second Video on Owen’s Mechanical Hand
Dexterity To Children With No Fingers
As noted by NPR, 3-D Printer Brings Dexterity To Children With No Fingers followed “Mechanical Hand”. Here are a couple of images.
From NPR …
Richard Van As was working in his home near Johannesburg, South Africa, in May of 2011, when he lost control of his table saw.
The carpenter lost two fingers and mangled two more on his right hand. While still in the hospital, he was determined to find a way to get back to work. Eventually, solving his own problem led him to work with a stranger on the other side of the world to create a mechanical hand using a 3-D printer. Other prosthetics, including a lower jaw, have been made with the technology before, but making a hand is particularly tricky.
In time, Van As from Ivan Owen. In the video, Owen, a special effects artist and puppeteer in Bellingham, Wash., was demonstrating one of his creations, a big puppet hand that relies on thin steel cables to act like tendons, allowing the metal digits to bend.
The two began working together long distance — Skyping, sharing ideas, even sending parts back and forth. Finally, Owen flew to South Africa to finish the work in person with Van As. And today, Van As has a working mechanical finger to assist him with his work.
But something else happened on Owen’s visit to South Africa: While he was there, Van As received a call from a woman seeking help for her 5-year-old son, Liam Dippenaar, who was born without fingers on his right hand. The cause was a rare congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. In ABS, fibrous bands can wrap around a hand or a foot in utero and cut off circulation.
Van As says he and Owen looked at each other and were of one mind: ” ‘Yeah, easy, no problem.’ “
Within days, they developed a crude mechanical hand for Liam, with five aluminum fingers that opened and closed with the up and down movement of Liam’s wrist. Owen still remembers the 5-year-old’s reaction when they rigged up the device for the first time.
“He bent his wrist and made the fingers curl,” Owen says. “You could see the light bulbs go off and he looked up and said, ‘It copies me.’ It was really an incredible moment.”
When Owen flew back to the United States, he wondered if the device could be turned into printable parts.
So he emailed MakerBot, a firm that makes 3-D printing equipment, to see if the company would help out. It did, offering both Owen and Van As a free 3-D printer. “Then there was no stopping us,” Van As says.
What had previously taken the pair a week’s time or more — milling finger pieces, adjusting and tweaking parts — now took 20 minutes to redesign, print and test.
Eventually, Liam’s crude hand was replaced with the improved 3-D printed version, which Van As and Owen call “Robohand.”
“After practicing with it for a little while, Liam was able to pick up a coin, grab objects of different shapes and sizes,” Owen says. “He’s a really determined little guy.”
Need a Hand?
If you literally “need a hand” you can Download the Plans and Instructions for Robohand on Thingiverse.
With a 3-D printer and about $150 in parts, you can make a hand. It will work better than the $30,000 prosthetic hands you can get from medical sources.
Strike that. 3-D printers can now make a newer “Lego-style” Snap Together Hand for about $5. Here is an image.
Before any insurance companies approve $30,000 devices, they ought to look into what they can get for $5.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock