The field of prosthetics has seen some rather stark and amazing developments in recent years. And considering the rise in DIY cybernetics, biohacking and 3D printing, it was just a matter of time before a bunch of hobbyists found a way to create their own. And that’s precisely what Ivan Owen and Richard Van, a special effects artist and a woodworker, have managed to do.
Despite living hundreds of kilometers from each other, these two men managed to collaborate on the creation of an artificial limb. And in an especially heartwarming twist, they did it on demand for a South African boy named Liam who war born without fingers on his right hand. For some time, they had been working together to create prosthetics relying only on their general know-how and technology that is available to the general public, all the while keeping tabs on their progress and sharing it with the general public through their blog comingupshorthanded.com.
After stumbling onto this website, Liam’s mother contacted Ivan and Richard and asked if they could create an artificial hand for her son. They obliged and, using a 3D printer, bits of cable, bungee cord returns and rubber thimbles, the two men collaborated over the internet to make it happen. And not only have they changed the life of young Liam, who is capable of doing things he never thought possible, they now hope to do the same for others looking for low-cost prosthetic alternatives.
For years, these two had been working on a “Robohand” together, in part due to the fact that Van As lost his right hand fingers in a woodworking accident. But until now, they had not considered the wider implications of their work. And after talking to Liam’s mom and seeing the difference it made in Liam’s life, they have set up a fundraising page are take requests for people looking for devices or who are interesting in offering help. Thanks to the open-source nature of the project, a number of improvements have already been made to their designs, with more sure to follow.
In addition to showcasing the trend of DIY device-making and open-source development, this is also good news for anyone in the market for an artificial hand or limb and who does not have $10,000 kicking around. That’s the standard price for a prosthetic these days, which despite incredible leaps in terms of sophistication have not gotten any cheaper! But with the right know-how, and some technical assistance, a person can find their way to a cheap, printed alternative and see similar results.
Overal, prosthetics offer people the opportunity to restore mobility and retain their independence. And now, thanks to the internet and 3D printing capabilities, they can manufacture these devices independently. The power to restore your own mobility is in your own hands… Interesting, and one might even say cosmically convergent!
Rock on Liam! You’ve got a great mom and some talented friends. As for the rest of you, be sure to check out this video of the 5 year old boy in action with his new prosthetic hand.