Using a 3D printer from Makerbot, prosthetic hands can be made in a day or two for a fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics.
What started as a project between two men — South African Richard van As who had lost four fingers in a woodworking accident and mechanical prop designer Ivan Owen in the state of Washington — has become a global project called Robohand with the ability to change the lives of youngsters born without fingers.
The Robohand is a set of mechanical fingers that open and close to grasp things based on the motion of the wrist.
When 3D printer company MakerBot heard about the project, it donated a MakerBot Replicator 2 desktop printer to each of them.
"The process was taking weeks and months per cycle … that was too much wasted time," MakerBot said on its blog. With the 3D printer, the prototyping process was reduced from weeks to just 20 minutes. The final cost came in around $150 (not including the printer).
Van As realized others could benefit from the device and posted his story on Facebook . One of the first Robohand recipients was pint-sized Liam, a 5-year-old boy in Johannesburg, who had been born without fingers on his right hand. Liam was given a Robohand just days after Van As and Owen received their MakerBot Replicator printers, Makerbot said.
The files to create a Robohand on a 3D printer were posted online and have been downloaded over 3,800 times.
Van As has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to cover the materials needed to make additional Robohands for kids in Johannesburg.
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