I’ve covered robotic arms on Thingiverse before, and despite their functionality, none of them could serve as prosthetics. Well now there is an operational prosthetic hand on Thingiverse called Robohand, uploaded by the men behind the ‘coming up short handed’ project.
Richard Van As cut the four fingers off of his right hand when he was using a table saw a little too quickly one afternoon, trying to make deadline on a client’s piece (he still delivered quality work). After painfully wrapping his hand and awkwardly stuffing the two of his fingers that he could reach into his apron pocket, he went to the emergency room, and after seeing his hand unwrapped and mangled, he told himself that he would build himself new fingers. Mechanical ones that work, not merely some static mannequin hand to hold his wedding ring. He did a bit of research, which generally lead to ridiculously expensive prosthetics, except when he stumbled across a video of a man showing off a mechanical hand that he built for a costume. That man is named Ivan Owen; he has a fascination with hands, and actually had a fear of power tools in school, afraid of losing his precious, piano playing fingers. So Rich wrote to Ivan, asking for his help in creating an affordable prosthetic, and Ivan was delighted to be of service. Being on opposite sides of the planet, Rich in South Africa and Ivan in Washington State, their collaboration over emails and Skype was slow, but productive. They wrote to MakerBot, and the staff being moved by their efforts sent Replicator 2s to both of them, for free!
Their collaboration became instantly more productive, as they could exchange digital files and then print and test the same physical objects. They eventually met up for a few days to work on a prosthetic for Liam, a little boy born with no fingers on his right hand. With a bit of scaling down of their prototypes, Rich and Ivan successfully mounted the 3D printed mechanical fingers (and a thumb) onto a thermoplastic gauntlet for Liam. By flexing his wrist, the fingers close, allowing him to grasp objects with his right hand for the first time. Liam enjoys the Robohand so much that he takes it to school to show all his friends.
The duo aren’t looking to make money from their work on Robohands; Liam got his for free, and the project is open source. They want to empower those that have lost, or were born without, fingers and can’t afford the tens of thousands of dollars for commercial prosthetics. But while they don’t want a salary, they could really use your donations to continue the project, and I think it a worthy cause.
Little Liam gets 3D printed hand
by Cameron Naramore