3-D Printed Prosthetics: The Open Hand Project

Open_Hand3-D Printing has been a boon for a number of industries, offering a cheaper method of production and sending those savings onto the consumer. One such industry is prosthetics, which is taking advantage of the new technology to cheaply generate all the components needed to create robotic replacement limbs. And with the proliferation of models, amputees and accident victims have a range of options that was previously unimaginable.

The latest comes to us from Bristol in the UK, where the robotics company known as The Open Hand Project has developed a robot limb that is cheaply produced and can be purchased for under £650 (or roughly $1000 US). At this price, their prosthetic device – known as the Dextrus robot hand = is significantly cheaper than existing robotics technology.

Open_hand3Inventor Joel Gibbard first came up with the idea for the Dextrus robotic hand while studying Robotics at the University of Plymouth in 2011. He developed a prototype for his final-year project before leaving to work for National Instruments. After two years in the workplace, he left his job in March 2013 to launch the Open Hand Project, an open-source venture that aims to make robotic prosthetic hands accessible for people in the developing world.

Gibbard’s hand relies entirely on off-the-shelf DC motors with a spool on the end that connects to a steel “tendon” that can be tightened and loosened when the user wants to move their fingers. The outer casing is composed of 3D-printed plastic parts that act like bones while a rubber coating acts as the skin. The user can control the fingers using electomyographical signals picked up from the muscle in their arm using stick-on electrodes.

open_hand2As Gibbard explained in an interview with Wired magazine:

Each finger is individually actuated so you can grasp funny shaped objects. It’s not all that complicated. I’ve put a little tensioner in between each one so you have a bit of mechanical compliance. Even if an amputee has lost their hand, all of the muscles are still in the forearm and they can still flex them, so you can use that signal.

Already, the prosthesis was tested out by a chef named Liam Corbett, who lost his hand to meningitis two years ago and contacted Gibbard via Facebook when he heard about the Open Hand Project. According to Corbett, he was very impressed with the device and said that:

I think it’s certainly going to enable me to do the finer things in life which I certainly haven’t been able to do with a hook… I would be proud to wear this, it would make me feel more confident.

open_hand1Gibbard hopes to refine the design to cut down on the electrical noise it produces, and to develop specialized software to configure the electrodes to simplify the calibration process. Back in September, he opened up a crowdfunding campaign with Indiegogo to raise the necessary money. As of writing this article, he has surpassed his goal of £39,000 and raised a total of £41,065.

However, there is still four days left before the campaign closes. So if you want to donate, thus enabling GIbbard and his colleagues to refine the design further, simply click here and follow the prompts. And be sure to check out the Indiegogo video to see how the hand works:


Sources: wired.co.uk, indiegogo.com

The Future is Here: The Sensory Prosthetic Hand

prosthetic_originalMuch has been made of the advancements made in mind-controlled prosthetics lately. For many, the advancements made in this field have led to comparisons with the prosthetic hand that Luke Skywalker received at the end of the Empire Strikes Back. Remember that, how he got a robotic hand that not only looked real but also allowed him to feel pain? Well as it stands, we may be closer to that than previously thought.

Witness the new era of robo-prosthetic devices, ones that will not only restore motion to a amputees and people born without limbs, but also sensory perception! Developed by Silvestro Micera of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, it’s the first prosthetic that will provide real-time sensory feedback to its owners. Later this year, a man by the name of Pierpaolo Petruzziello, who lost half his arm in a car accident, will receive the first of its kind, once all the tests are concluded.

prostheticMuch like the mind-controlled prosthetics that have been making the rounds in recent years, this new device is wired directly to the user’s nervous system with electrodes, allowing them to control its movement. However, in this updated model, the process works both ways. Once the hand’s electrodes are clipped onto two of the arm’s main nerves, the median and the ulnar nerves, it will form a cybernetic connection allowing for the fast and bidirectional flow of information between the patient’s nervous system and the artificial hand.

In this respect, the arm works much as a real one does, using electrical stimuli to both send commands and receive sensory information. Announcing the development of the hand at the recently concluded AAAS conference in Boston, Micera was sure to highlight this aspect of the prosthetic, claiming that increased sensory feelings will improve acceptance of artificial limbs among patients.

prosthetic2Interestingly enough, this model is an updated version of one Micera and his team produced back in 2009, again for use by Petruzziello. He was able to move the bionic hand’s fingers, clench them into a fist and hold objects, and also reported feeling the sensation of needles pricked into the hand’s palm. However, this earlier version of the hand had only two sensory zones whereas the latest prototype will send sensory signals back from all the fingertips, as well as the palm and the wrists to give a near life-like feeling in the limb.

Once the hand and patient are united, he will wear it for a month in order to get a proper feel for the prosthetic and test out its many functions. Based on that test-drive, Micera hopes to develop a fully-functional and commercially viable model within the next two years.

Just think of it: prosthetics for amputees that will not only allow them to interact with their world again, but will provide them with the sensory information they need to actually feel like a part of it. One step closer to truly providing accident victims and people born without limbs a new and fully-functional lease on life. And perhaps to posthumanism as well!

transhuman3

Source: independent.co.uk, neurogadget.com