A five-year-old boy born without fingers on one hand now has a new grasp on life thanks to a mostly-online collaboration between an American amateur mechanical engineer and a South African man, as well as a pair of 3D printers. The Robohand uses a proven system of cables that activate with the wrist angle, and contains no electronics or sensors. Currently the device costs less than $150, which is far cheaper than most prostheses, and the designers think they can make it even less expensive. Even better, the design specs are available for free on their Web site as well as on the spec sharing site Thingiverse.
What’s the Big Idea?
In 2011, Ivan Owen posted a YouTube video of a huge mechanical hand he had created just for fun. South African Richard Van As, who’d lost the fingers of his right hand, saw the video and contacted Owen about turning the project into something useful. Nearly a year later, the two met in Johannesburg to work in person on creating the Robohand for the boy. 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot donated a printer to each designer, which sped up development considerably. The duo now wants to work on projects that will make affordable prostheses accessible to more people.