British inventor and robotocist Joel Gibbard has created a durable 3D-printed hand that not only boasts an impressive range of motion, but it can also be created for a fraction of the cost of conventional carbon fiber and titanium prosthetics. Constructed from plastic filament, metal and a rubber coating that mimics skin, the Dextrus hand costs less than $1000, and Gibbard hopes that by making the design open source he will be able to make prosthetic hands more accessible to amputees.
Currently at the prototype stage, the Dextrus hand is designed to work much like a human hand. The 3D-printed plastic “bones” are all connected by steel wire “tendons,” and are individually articulated to allow a significantly greater range of motion than current lower-cost prosthetics such as metal hooks. A rubber coating over the plastic bones acts as skin, and allows the wearer to grasp objects securely.
Electronics within the hand control its movement. According to the designer, it can “be connected to an existing prosthesis using a standard connector to give an amputee another option. It uses stick-on electrodes to read signals from their remaining muscles, which can control the hand, telling it to open or close.”
Bristol-based Gibbard is supporting the development of a more polished design through an indiegogo campaign—The Open Hand Project—that has now surpassed its fundraising goal of £39,000 ($62,000). From here he will work to further test the electronics of the hand, and create a more refined, aesthetically pleasing model. One amputee, Chef Liam Corbett has been testing the prototype, and his initial reviews are positive “I think it’s certainly going to enable me to do the finer things in life which I haven’t been able to do with the hook… I would be proud to wear this, it would make me feel more confident.”
Gibbard is also working to develop a model to be worn by children, citing that: “As a child grows they need a new hand every one or two years which can cost up to £1m over the child’s lifetime. This makes it virtually impossible to do. With 3D printing, you can just replace the parts you need to each year and make the hand larger each time. The cost would be perhaps just a couple of hundred pounds each year.”
And that truly could change lives.