A 5-year-old South African boy is learning to use a new prosthetic hand made specially for him thanks to a 3D printer and the work of two men 10,000 miles apart with the common goal of creating prosthetics for finger amputees.
Liam was born with Ambiotic Band Syndrome and therefore had no fingers on his right hand. Richard Van As in South Africa, who lost four of his own fingers in an accident in 2011, worked to help create a custom prosthetic for the boy that would also serve for the basis of creating a prototype for a prosthetic of his own.
The journey of this prosthetic for Liam began in 2011 when Van As was researching prosthetics for himself after his accident and came across a design by Ivan Owen, a costume/prop maker living in Washington state. According to the about section of their blog — Coming Up Short Handed — they have been working together to design affordable prosthetics ever since, mostly via Skype and through email.
Liam’s “robohand” is the final product of their initial work. Popular Science has more on what went into creating the device:
The result is a way to blend low-tech mechanics and fast prototyping with 46 parts — sixteen 3-D-printed pieces, 28 off the shelf (which included nylon cord, nuts and bolts, elastic, and rubber thimbles). The 3-D parts were made possible by Makerbot, which donated two 3-D printers, one each for Van As and Owen so they could swap CAD files as they refined the designs.
In a recent blog post, the men said that they’ve posted the designs on Thingiverse, an open source site where 3D printer designs can be shared, and they’ve been receiving requests from others wanting help with their devices.
Liam is only a few days into using his new prosthetic. Just three days after receiving the final device, Liam can pick up objects as small as a coin.
Watch Liam use his robohand:
Here’s an earlier look at the formation of Liam’s hand:
Aside from major equipment and tools, the parts to create the hand cost $150. Liam’s hand was produced with no charge to his parents. The group is seeking more funds to replenish what was raised before in order to keep new projects going.