Hacklet 41 – Prosthetics Projects

Throughout human history, mankind has worked to enable those with disabilities. This applies especially to those who have missing limbs, either from injury or since birth. Every time technology improves, prosthetics improve along with the way. Unfortunately this now means prosthetics have become expensive systems. Hackers, makers, and engineers are working to make prosthetics more affordable, and more available to everyone. This week’s Hacklet focuses on some of the best prosthetics projects on Hackaday.io!

bionic1We start with [Open Bionics] and Affordable Bionic Hands For Amputees. The [Open Bionics] team are using 3D printers to bring the cost of a prosthetic arm and hand down from up to $100,000 USD to just $1000 USD. They’ve also reduced the time to create a custom device from weeks to just 5 days. The team’s current hand has five degrees of freedom, uses electromyography (EMG) for control, and weighs just 268 grams. [Open Bionics] discovered that many amputees are willing to trade off functions for a lighter weight device. Having a sensor and motor studded hand won’t help much if the wearer is worn out after just a couple of hours!

bionic2Next up is [yash.gajra56] and RE-ARM. RE-ARM is a prosthetic arm project which aims to help both those who have lost limbs, and those with full or partial paralysis of a limb. Movement is provided by radio control style servos. Control is via voice commands and Bluetooth from a cell phone. [Yash] has incorporated feedback into RE-ARM by using flex sensors. Processing is handled by an Arduino. We like the low-cost, low tech approach RE-ARM uses. We’d love to see everyone have access to a 3D printer, but unfortunately the world isn’t there quite yet. RE-ARM uses readily available components to build a functional prosthetic. Nice work [yash]!

bionic3[OpenBionics] brings us  Affordable Prosthetic Hands. No, you didn’t read that name wrong. There are two “Open Bionics” on Hackaday.io! This [OpenBionics] team has no space, and is based in Athens, Greece. The other [Open Bionics] team does have a space between the words, and is based in Bristol in the United Kingdom. We’re hoping the two groups can come together and collaborate now that they’re both using Hackaday.io. This [OpenBionics] team is working on prosthetic hands, in the sub $200 USD price range. The team has come up with a novel thumb design which provides nearly full functionality with only one rotating joint. [OpenBionics] also allows their users to selectively lock digits, which allows for up to 144 different grasping postures.

 

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Finally we have [Daniel Mead] with Third World Medical Equipment (Arm). [Daniel] created this project as an independent study back in high school. The idea is create a simple arm with a gripper out of cheap or freely available items. The gripper is fashioned from a bicycle brake. The fitting system is especially novel. [Daniel] used an old soda bottle to create a custom mold for the amputee’s residual limb. Plastic bottles are generally made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, a thermoplastic. [Daniel] placed a wet sock over his arm, and a plastic bottle over the sock. Holding the plastic bottle above a fire created enough heat to shrink the bottle to his arm. the sock provided room for padding, and insulated him from getting burned during the molding process.

Not satisfied? Want more prosthetics? Check out the Prosthetics list over on Hackaday.io! If any of these projects inspire you, don’t forget that prosthetics are a great starting point for an entry in The Hackaday Prize!

That’s about all the time we have for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

E-Nable(ing) Shea to Build a Prosthetic Hand for Herself!

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Here’s a heartwarming story for the day. Introducing [Shea], a little 9-year-old girl with a prosthetic hand made possible from a community of internet strangers!

She was born with only the palm of her right hand and a two-digit thumb — no fingers. Despite this day and age, prosthetics aren’t generally that good, or affordable — especially for a quickly growing young girl. So when [Shea] asked for a new hand from Santa before Christmas, her mom, [Ranee], started doing some research online. She had seen 3D printed prosthetics through Facebook posts and managed to track down the E-Nable group, which is a community of maker’s dedicated to lending a hand — quite literally.

The group got her in touch with [Nick Parker], a high school student and robotics enthusiast from California eager to help, who then introduced her (online) to his local Makerspace — from there they connected with the Milwaukee Makerspace (closer to home), and [Frankie Flood], an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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Prosthetic spines become musical instruments

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[Joseph] and [Ian] have been working on a project that turns physical objects into bendable, snake-like controllers

This build is the culmination of an earlier project that digitally modeled a flexible object with accelerometers, gyroscopes, and IMUs. When we first saw this build, we wondered what it could actually be used for, but it seems [Joseph] and [Ian] came up with a pretty cool use for it: turning prosthetic spines and ribs into musical instruments.

These flexible devices are loaded up with sensors along their joints and are connected to a microcontroller with a Zigbee radio transceiver. The positioning data from these devices is transmitted to a computer where it’s turned into audio, effectively turning a dancer into a musical instrument.

For an art piece, it’s pretty cool, but as a new means of interacting with a computer, we’re thinking this might be a game changer. Imagine a gauntlet loaded up with IMUs being turned into a waldo, or precisely controlling virtual objects naturally with your hand.

3D printed prosthetic hand helps out for about $150

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We know that there are already 3D printed hips and knees in use in the medical field, but it takes a story like this one to really bring home the idea of how this technology changes lives. 5-year-old [Liam] is missing parts of his right hand, and this open-source prosthetic hand has given him a jolt of increased function. The video clip after the break shows him on the third day with the device. He’s practicing picking up coins from a stack using the hand. Just $150 in parts, combined with the hard work and good nature of the developers, made this possible.

The design is available on Thingiverse. In addition to the 3D printed parts the prosthesis uses off-the-shelf hardware store items like bungee cord and fasteners. The tips of each finger and the thumb are given some flex and grip by covering each with a rubber thimble.

We love seeing this life-changing technology wielded by basement and garage hackers. Another great example is this scratch-built leg from last May.

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Open source finger prosthesis

Here’s a project that is striving to develop a set of open source finger prosthesis. They are aimed at patients who have partial amputations. This means that part of the digit remains and can be used as the motive force behind a well designed mechanical prosthesis like you see above. This uses levers, pulleys, and wire to move a gripper in much the same way the pad of a pointer finger works. There’s even a video (embedded after the jump) which shows it being used to grab a toothpick from a dispenser… pretty impressive. This is similar to the prosthesis we saw in August which managed to work without pulleys and wire.

This isn’t limited to fingers. The same posts that shows off the unit seen above also includes a prosthetic thumb. The leverage for that design is provided by a woven nylon strap which attaches to a bracelet on the wrist.

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Replacing a finger or an arm in the hacker tradition

Just a few weeks ago we were wondering if we’d try to build our own prosthesis if we were ever to lose a limb. This pair of hacks answers that query with a resounding “YES!”.

To the right is a replacement pointer finger. The missing digit took the first two knuckles with it, but there’s enough left to easily interface with this creation. It’s a mechanically clever assembly that moves as you would expect the original to. See for yourself after the break. It seem the maker intended to mold silicone around the structure but never got around to posting an update video.

On the left we have a chinese man who lost his arms while fishing. It seems they were using homemade bombs instead of nets and one went off prematurely. Since then he’s constructed several different prosthetic arms, each with its own special purpose. This one has a saw connected to it but these two write ups on the man show images of him using a fork and wielding a hammer.

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[Easton’s] robot arm takes 2nd place in the International Science and Engineering Fair

Here we see [Easton LaChappelle] getting a congratulatory handshake from the robotic arm he built. This project is aimed at human prosthetics, and we’re happy to report that [Easton] won second place in Electrical and Mechanical engineering division of this year’s International Science and Engineering Fair (PDF listing the winners).

In the video he gives us a great look of the state of the project. Since we checked in with him last he’s added a body for the arm to mount to. The arm now has shoulder movement, which uses geared DC motors along with some potentiometers for orientation feedback. For the elbow he wanted to have the same setup but ran into trouble mounting the potentiometer. His solution was to use some shapelock to mold a bracket (shapelock is the plastic you melt in water to form any shape). In addition to the aforementioned joints, the wrist, fingers, and hand have all seen improvements in how they are supported and in their performance.

We think this is amazing work for anyone, especially a 16-year-old High School student. Great job [Easton]!

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