3D Printing a Special Hand

Posted on June 2, 2015 by Dr. Lynda

3D printing is reaching new heights and will expand possibility in ways we never dreamed.

Take a hard look at the hand you used an instant ago to click on this website. Now consider trying to work through the last 15 minutes of your life without that hand. No really… take a moment!

Image: The world in our handsI just got up, made my bed, made coffee, brushed my teeth, changed my clothes, and sat down to write this article before the kids got up. In a few minutes I’ll need to zoom around getting breakfast for everyone, watering some fragile garden plants on my deck, fold one load of laundry, and sort through months of bills to find two pieces of mail so my daughter can go get her driver’s license renewed today.

Nothing I just mentioned could be done easily or quickly if I were missing a hand.

It could be argued that after the part of our brain that allows us to think critically, our hands are our highest evolutionary advantage. The world is our oyster as long as we have hands to shape our future.

And even if I could afford to get an advanced prosthesis of some sort, I would have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars which is way outside the reach of most.

Not any more.

The Open Hand Project plans to revolutionize this industry by creating prosthetic limbs using a 3D PRINTER. At 23 years old, robotics expert Joel Gibbard, came up with a genius alternative which would cost around $1000.

The first-class engineering graduate has created The Dextrus hand, a fully-working prototype built using a 3D printer. Dextrus works like a human hand, using electric motors instead of muscles and steel cables instead of tendons. The 3D printed plastic parts work like bones, and a rubber coating acts as skin. It takes around eight hours to print one off and it looks genius!

Take a look at their video…

There’s quite a website developed for this project. Click here if you’d like to learn more there.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “throw away society” we’ve created and the way we accept “single use and then the landfill” as part of good design. Of course we can’t afford that much longer. So here’s my favorite part of this project, from their website:

Made to Endure

One of the most expensive aspects of leading robotic prosthetic hands is the materials that are used to create them. Titanium and Carbon fiber enable these devices to be used all day and not wear out after a few months, but when designing on a budget these luxuries aren’t available. ABS plastic will be used to create the majority of the parts in the Dextrus hand. That’s the same tough, durable material that Lego is made from.

Image: open hand projectThe plastic parts are created using 3D printers. In the past couple of years there has been a revolution in 3D printing, a worldwide community of enthusiasts has brought the price of these devices down. With this collective experience they’ve created accurate, high resolution 3D printers that are capable of making the intricate parts required to build a device like this at an affordable cost. This means that if a part does wear or break, a replacement can simply be printed and it can be replaced. The parts are so cheap that you can even have a handful of spare fingers just in case.The Dextrus hand is designed to make replacing parts quick and easy. 2

The fact that this technology is open sourced will allow it to expand exponentially. Fabulous! Good news for a change! (The only kind you’ll get on Ever Widening Circles!)

That’s all for today on EWC. Now with a spring in your step and knowing that the world is still an amazing place, head out! Stay open, stay curious and stay hopeful!

~ Dr. Lynda

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