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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Kickstart a 3D-printed robotic hand

About The Author

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: Christopher Chappell)

A Kickstarter is trying to raise funds to get an ultra-cheap 3D-printed robotic hand into production.

If you are missing a hand, getting a replacement isn't exactly cheap. The BeBionic — which is, admittedly, a higher-end model — can cost up to US$35,000. We imagine that's a little out of the price range of most amputees.

It's unsurprising, then, that some have taken it upon themselves to find a more accessible solution. Robohand, for example, have been creating 3D-printed robotic hands for children, with a free, open-source 3D-printing pattern available on Thingiverse for people who wish to make their own.

Christopher Chappell of the UK wants to do something similar. He's created a Kickstarter for a 3D-printed robotic hand that is a little bit more sophisticated than the Robohand, but could cost as little as around AU$430 for an assembled hand and arm.

But it's not quite ready for amputees — not yet. What Chappell hopes to achieve is to open up experimentation and development of the technology, with the end goal of opening up cheap mass-production of various robotics.

"Our Kickstarter campaign is to develop a humanoid robotic hand and arm that is of far lower cost than any other available," he said. "We believe that this will open up robotics to a far wider market of makers and researchers than has ever been possible. This should then trigger an explosion of creativity in the areas of robotics, telepresence and ultimately, prosthetics."

Various pledge tiers offer a range of parts for backers to experiment with — starting with a kit to assemble a single finger, all the way up to a fully assembled hand and arm with a wireless control glove.

Current features of the arm include:

  • 6 degrees of freedom that can be actuated (1 thumb, 4 fingers and 1 wrist). The thumb has another degree of freedom that can be set manually

  • The arm uses a tendon system, with the movement being provided by 5 Hobby Servos. 5 being the current number that can fit into the forearm

  • Small elastic bands allow the joints to open and close smoothly

  • Easy assembly and repair. All parts can be removed and fixed, should the need arise

  • Off the shelf electronics. The arm uses arduinos and commercial servo drivers

  • Free software. The software to control the hand will be posted online. This will allow control via PC, as well as other inputs (eg, control glove, EEG etc.). The source code will be open so that you can create your own control systems

  • Joint Models. We will upload models that will allow you to make compatible fingers. This allows a great level of customisation, where you can design and print your own fingers, and have them work with the hand

With the Kickstarter funds, Chappell hopes to: optimise electronics; add position, pressure and temperature sensors; use higher grade materials; increase the degrees of freedom; add ball bearings to decrease wear and tear; and create a better control glove from the ground up.

You can read more about the project on Chappell's Anthromod website, and head to the 3D Printed Robotic Hand Kickstarter page to donate.


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