Two men living on opposite sides of the planet have teamed up to design and build a 3D-printed prosthetic hand for a five-year old named Liam, who was born with no fingers on his right hand. By combining low-tech mechanics and fast prototyping, the team developed the Robohand, a body powered device that can be personalized and costs only $150. The design is open-source and can be downloaded by anyone.
One of the makers, Richard Van As of South Africa, lost four of his fingers in a sawing accident. After trying to replicate the design of a prosthetic hand he found on YouTube, he contacted the maker, a mechanical special effects artist named Ivan Owen from Bellingham, Washington, US. The men joined forces to make a mechanical replacement for Richard- an endeavor that grew into a fundraising campaign to help people throughout the world. Soon they received two 3D printers as a donation from Makerbot, which allowed them to swap CAD files as the design progressed.
The Robohand is made of 46 parts; sixteen 3D printed pieces and 28 off the shelf, such as nylon cord, nuts and bolts and rubber thimbles. The prosthetic is controlled by a system that reacts to the motions of the hand.
Liam, a five-year old boy from South Africa who was missing fingers on his right hand, got the Robohand on his birthday in January. Now he can play basketball and even pick up an object as small as a coin. His mother, Yolandi, wrote to the makers, saying that Liam’s “not shy at all to show all his Robohand. His little school he goes to was a huge hit, all the teachers and kiddies were in awe.”