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Losing a limb is a painful trauma to endure, and yet whether through accident or disease, or being born without limbs, this is an ailment that affects many people the world over. Replacing limbs with prosthetics though, has long been an expensive affair, but 3D-printing promises to change all of that.
South African Richard Van As, who lost four fingers on his dominant hand in a woodworking accident, sought to create a low-cost prosthetic hand and established Robohand in 2011 with Ivan Owen. The company creates 3D printed “and aluminum CNC machined, anatomically driven, custom fitted, mechanical devices to help limb different individuals as an alternative to standard prosthetics,” and now it wants to take that tech to Australia with a new Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.
So how much does it cost? Well according to the Robohand F.A.Q.:
To print the fingers with the knuckle block and hinges for a Robohand costs around US$5. To make a proper Robohand, which includes medical Orthoplastic, stainless steel hardware, tools, Velcro, plus the time it takes, costs US$2000. When Robohand has charged for a hand we have only requested US$500 which covers only the cost of materials.
In 2012 Robohand was donated two Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printers to further refine the Robohand design. In 2013 the prototype’s design was published open source. Since then Van As has developed:
- The Robofinger for improved fine motor skills
- Robohand which provides gross grasp (all fingers open/close together
- Roboarm which provides gross grasp as above with palm up and down capabilities
As of November 2013, Van As has fitted more than 200 hands to individuals worldwide.
Robohand has benefited many people, but one incredible story shows how the Robohand tech was used by Not Impossible Labs in Sudan to replace childrens’ lost arms from the Sudanese war.
For a continent like Africa, where healthcare facilities struggle to keep up with the demand, and the cost is too high for much of the population, low-cost prostheses from 3D-printing could well be a saving grace.
To support Robohand Australia go to the Indiegogo campaign page.