3D printing has opened the way for advancements in many fields, including 3D printing prosthetic hands. Combining affordability with precise technology, these promising projects are working to make these prosthetic hands even more accessible to those who need them, changing hundreds if not thousands of lives.
With their slogan of ‘turning disabilities into superpowers’, this UK-based startup offers the world’s first clinically tested and FDA-registered 3D printed prosthetic hand: the Hero Arm.
Though no specifics are offered on the site, the arm is supposedly less than half the price of comparable bionic arms and take about 40 hours to 3D print.
Each arm is custom-built and printed to fit the user’s arm as well as their sense of style. In fact, Open Bionics holds the Guiness World Record for creating the first prosthetic limb based on a videogame – Adam Jensen’s hand from Deus Ex.
Named as one of Europe’s hottest startups in 2018 at the Europa Awards, the company currently operates in the UK only but is looking to expand internationally.
The coolest part is that, as its name suggests, Open Bionics open sources a lot of its technology. This includes printable .stl files of different robotic hands — check out their downloads page!
It can be very difficult for young children to get prosthetic hands. For one thing, each hand must be replaced as kids outgrow them, a very expensive task. The prosthetics available are usually also limited to passive limbs that can’t actually move.
To solve this, Ben Ryan established Ambionics to create a 3D printed movable arm fitted for small children. His design utilizes a bulb of fluid under the armpit that opens and closes the thumb.
Armed with an Xbox scanner and 3D printer, he estimates that each arm costs between $150-$250 — much cheaper than most on the market. Thanks to the power of 3D printing, it takes less than a week to remodel and print a new arm once the child grows out of it.
“If you haven’t mastered a prosthetic by two and a half, it will be very cumbersome to do so,” Ryan said to CNN. He hopes that his arm will help children around the world until they are ready for a more complicated device.
Students at the University of Manchester have developed an ultra-cheap hand prosthetic with a surprising amount of functionality.
At a price point of around $433, the 3D printed hand can do what prosthetics costing thousands of dollars more can’t. Each finger can be individually moved and controlled by the user, allowing for finer control than most options on the market. Additionally, the arm comes with an Android app that further refines the arm’s functionalities.
The students 3D printed the arm using an SLA printer, but they’re moving to FDM to lower costs even more.
“Not only do we want to make it affordable, we want people to actually like the look of it and not be ashamed or embarrassed of using or wearing it,” says the team. They continually work on making their prototype more aesthetically pleasing and comfortable for users.
Read more about these students here.
e-NABLE is a global network of volunteers that are passionate about 3D printing hands for those in need. Perhaps the biggest and first community effort to 3D print prosthetics out there, e-NABLE began with just a handful of people and one design in 2013 and quickly grew to the 7000+ members today.
Anyone can download more than 10 different designs for arms from their site, complete with instructions for 3D printing, assembly, and any modifications needed. The most popular design is the Phoenix Hand, created by a researcher at Shandong University based on other open-source designs.
The prosthetics are designed by members of the community and are improved on regularly. Each has a different look and purpose — there are designs for those with working wrists, elbows, and even a finger prosthetic.
What’s most amazing is that this large community is based solely on volunteers. There are several roles that volunteers play, from producing 3D printed parts to assembly. If you’re interested in learning more, click here.
And of course, e-NABLE is always accepting donations. This money goes to sponsoring hands for those in need, buying materials for assembly, and keeping the site going.
Want to read more about 3D printed hands? Please continue here:
(Feature image: Lourds Lane)
License: The text of "3D Printed Prosthetic Hand – 4 Most Promising Projects 2018" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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