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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

3D-printed robotic hand cuts cost of prosthetics

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Credit: Coming Up Short Handed)

Specifications for a 3D-printed prosthetic hand for a young boy born without a set of fingers is available as a free download on Thingiverse.

Liam, thanks to a case of amniotic band syndrome, was born without any fingers on his right hand.

Enter two men: Richard Van As, a carpenter in South Africa who lost the fingers on his right hand in a work accident, and Ivan Owen, a prop-maker in Washington who came to Van As' attention via a YouTube video he posted showing a claw prop he created as an experiment.

The two collaborated on creating a prosthetic finger for Van As, collaborating over distance, shipping parts back and forth. It wasn't until November last year that the two met — Owens travelling to Johannesburg to work on some finishing touches.

But in the interval, Van As had been contacted by the mother of a five-year-old boy, Liam. She had seen the project on its blog, Coming Up Short Handed, and wanted to know if the pair could devise something for her son.

Last month, Liam finally received his Robohand — printed on a Makerbot for very little cost, compared to the tens of thousands of dollars robotic prosthetics can cost.

It operates via cables and bungees, seeming to be controlled by fine movements of the wrist, arm and hand — and is surprisingly effective.

You can watch a video of Liam using his Robohand in the video below, and find the downloadable 3D printing pattern on Thingiverse here. Although it was designed for a small child's arm, Van As and Owen say:

Using Makerware, it could be scaled to fit a wide range of individuals. The only thing that would need to be changed is the size of the bolts purchased from a hardware store. The design is open source and in the public domain. We encourage anyone who can make use of this design for any purpose to do so.

If you need to contact either Van As or Owen, you can find their email addresses on the Thingiverse page too.


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