Solar-Powered Prosthetic Skin

One of the biggest problems for prosthetic users is feel. If you’ve ever tried to hold a pen and write with a numb hand, you’ve realised how important feedback is to the motor control equation. Research is ongoing to find ways to provide feedback from prosthetic limbs, in even a basic format.  The human nervous system is a little more complex than just interfacing with the average serial UART. One of the requirements of many feedback systems is power, which usually would involve bulky batteries or some form of supercapacitors, but a British team has developed a way to embed solar cells in a touch-sensitive prosthetic skin.

The skin relies on everyone’s favourite material of the minute, graphene. A thin layer of graphene allows the prosthetic to feed signals back to the user of both temperature and contact pressure. The trick is that the graphene skin is incredibly transparent, reportedly allowing 98% of light on its surface to pass through. It’s then a simple matter of fitting solar panels beneath this skin, and the energy harvested can then be used to power the sensor system.

The team does admit that some power storage will later be required, as it would be difficult for any prosthetic user if their limbs lost all feedback when they walked into a dark room. The idea of one’s arm losing all feeling upon going to bed isn’t particularly appealing. Check out the paper here (paywalled). Video below the break.
We see a lot of great prosthetic projects cross our desk here at Hackaday – like this 3D printed prosthetic hand. Prosthetics definitely matter, so why not build your own and enter it in the 2017 Hackaday Prize?

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Ardu McDuino Plays the Bagpipes

To “pipe in” the new year, [John] decided to build a bagpipe-playing robot. Unlike other instrument-playing robots that we’ve seen before, this one is somewhat anatomically correct as well. John went the extra mile and 3D printed fingers and hands to play his set of pipes.

The brains of the robot are handled by an Arduino Mega 2560, which drives a set of solenoids through a driver board. The hands themselves are printed from the open source Enabling the Future project which is an organization that 3D prints prosthetic hands for matched recipients, especially people who can’t otherwise afford prosthetics. He had to scale up his hands by 171% to get them to play the pipes correctly, but from there it was a fairly straightforward matter of providing air to the bag (via a human being) and programming the Arduino to play a few songs.

The bagpipe isn’t a particularly common instrument (at least in parts of the world that aren’t Scottish) so it’s interesting to see a robot built to play one. Of course, your music-playing robot might be able to make music with something that’s not generally considered a musical instrument at all. And if none of these suit your needs, you can always build your own purpose-built semi-robotic instrument as well.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Simpsons Hands

The creators of this Hackaday Prize entry say every month a new 3D-printed prosthetic solution comes on the scene. That doesn’t mean they’re not doing something different with their entry; yes, they’re still building a prosthetic hand, but they’re putting their own spin on it. This one isn’t using a string/cable/tendon setup, and the hand doesn’t even have four fingers. [Giovanni] and [Jenny] are going their own way, and what they’ve come up with is pretty special.

The most obvious feature of this prosthetic hand is a missing digit – Simpsons Hands – but this makes a lot of sense if you think about it. It’s doubtful any 3D-printed prosthetic hand will play a piano or touch type in the near future, so a pinkie finger is an appendix; an unneeded vanity that just increases the BOM and makes things harder to fit together.

Apart from the Simpsons Hands, this prosthetic hand is more or less what you would expect. The circuitry is just an Adafruit ATmega board, the mechanism is just a few servos, and the mechanics are well designed in carbon fiber PLA. What makes this prosthetic hand special for the team is that it’s the first of its kind in their native Colombia. Even if there’s a new 3D-printed prosthetic hand on Thingiverse every few weeks, this project makes it a truly global effort, and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

3D-Printed Prosthetic Puts the Power in the Hands of Those Who Need It

In recent years, prosthetics have seen a dramatic increase in innovation due to the rise of 3D printing. [Nicholas Huchet] — missing a hand due to a workplace accident in 2002 — spent his residency at Fab Lab Berlin designing, building, testing and sharing the files and tutorials for a prosthetic hand that costs around 700 Euros.

[Huchet] founded Bionicohand with the intent of using the technology to make prosthetic limbs available to those without reliable medical or social assistance — as well as for amputees in countries without such systems — which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The parts took a week to print while assembly and modifications to suit [Huchet’s] arm took another four days, but the final product is functional and uses affordable myoelectric sensors, boards and servos — plus there’s always the option of using a basic 3D scanner to accommodate for existing prosthetic mounts for the individual.

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Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm

Losing a limb often means getting fitted for a prosthetic. Although there have been some scientific and engineering advances (compare a pirate’s peg leg to “blade runner” Oscar Pistorius’ legs), they still are just inert attachments to your body. Researchers at Johns Hopkins hope to change all that. In the Journal of Neural Engineering, they announced a proof of concept design that allowed a person to control prosthetic fingers using mind control.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Biohand

One of the greatest uses we’ve seen for 3D printing is prosthetics; even today, a professionally made prosthetic would cost thousands and thousands of dollars. For his entry to the Hackaday Prize, [Martin] is building a low-cost 3D printed hand that works just like a natural hand, but with motors instead of muscles and tendons.

There are a lot of 3D printed finger mechanisms around that use string and wires to move a finger around. This has its advantages: it’s extremely similar to the arrangement of tendons in a normal hand, but [Martin] wanted to see if there was a better way. He’s using a four-bar linkage instead of strings, and is driving each finger with a threaded rod and servo motor. It’s relatively strong; just the motor and drive screw system was able to lift 1kg, and this mechanical arrangement has the added bonus of using the servo’s potentiometer to provide feedback of the position of the finger to the drive electronics.

This is far from the only prosthetic hand project in the running for The Hackaday Prize. [OpenBionics] is working on a very novel mechanism to emulate the function of the human hand in their project, and [Amadon Faul] is going all out and casting metacarpals and phalanges out of aluminum in his NeoLimb project. They’re all amazing projects, and they’re all making great use of 3D printing technology, and by no means are there too many prosthetic projects entered in The Hackaday Prize.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Hackaday Prize Entry: OpenBionics

For the last few years now, the 3D printing community has been searching for a groundbreaking application for out little boxes of plastic squirting goodness. On of the most interesting applications the community has stumbled upon is prosthetics.

There have been a lot of people warming up their 3D printers and laser cutters to make prosthetic limbs in recent years. For [OpenBionics]’ entry for The Hackaday Prize, they’re building a prosthetic hand that costs less than $200, weighs less than 300 grams, and can be easily fabricated with 3D printers and laser cutters.

The human hand is the most complex end-effector on the planet, and emulating its range of motion is a difficult task. Still, the [OpenBionics] team is working hard to properly emulate a thumb with three degrees of freedom, putting 144 different grasps on the hand, and making their hand useful with soft fingertips.

Even with all this capability, [OpenBionic]’s robotic hand – motors and all – is about the same size as a normal human hand. That’s incredible, especially when you consider the motors for your hand – muscles – are all in your arm.

The team has put together a video demoing the capabilities of their hand. It’s somewhat remarkable, and able to do everything from lift a coffee cup to holding a pen. You can check that video out below.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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