A Prosthetic Arm That Doesn’t Cost An Arm And A Leg.

After a motorcycle accident that cost him is arm [Martin] and his son [Luke] chose not to give up. They used their considerable mechanical skills to create a replacement robotic arm which allowed Martin to start doing some of the simple things he had been unable to do with the prosthetic he was originally fitted with. There are not a lot of details but it seems the arm has 2 degrees of freedom with a claw manipulator, controlled via chin controls to free up his other arm. For anyone interested in similar projects you should check out the Open Prosthetics Project. There is a short video after the break which tells Martin’s story. If you don’t have an arm, build one, seems perfectly reasonable to us. Nice work guys! We look forward to seeing the next version.


32 thoughts on “A Prosthetic Arm That Doesn’t Cost An Arm And A Leg.

  1. For a home made device, that’s incredibly impressive! Sure, it could benefit from less exposure of the mechanicals, and the plastic gearing seemed dubious considering the size of the motor–then again, I don’t know the full details, so if it works, awesome!

    I’ve always been of the opinion that if I had a prosthetic, I would want it too look as terrifyingly awesome as possible. Perhaps a future version could replace the dinky little flashlight with a much more badassical welding torch.

  2. If I lost a limb I would be disabled, for a little while, but then because I’m a maker, it would ENable me. The horrible monstrosities I would create to fit in its place would be controlled by nerve impulses or with one of those mind-computer game controllers and it would become a Fn power tool. Hmm, I could also build a computer into it and have a headphone plug in the shoulder and a touchscreen for a hand, maybe stick a dvd player in there too, oooh, with that you could certainly develop a solid brain-computer interface to control the robot uprising and come out on top! Should probably start with a power drill though.

  3. This man, and his son should collaborate with Luis the Honduran High School senior. Controlling the prosthesis with eye movements may or may or may not be a viable option. I’d think that would depend on the task at hand, and how much other eye movement is need to perform the task, eye movement that would interfere with controlling the prosthesis. I really enjoy reading of projects like this.

  4. Please use punctuation it’s quiet ambiguous.

    Sounds like he lost his arm named Martin and his son named Luke.

    Or lost his arm named Martin and his son. And he is called Luke.

    I know I could work it out from context later on, but that’s no excuse.

  5. screw losing a limb….
    as for control, i would personally go for raising/lowering of shoulder or something attached to a finger

  6. Very good choice of soundtrack! I hope you do find what you’re looking for.

    Sadly, from a biomedical engineer’s perspective, I know what the options are (though not the particular ones available in Malta), yet I highly commend your work and wish you the best of luck in your rehabilitation and continuation of this project. Not only for yourself, but for everyone in similar need.

  7. @Alex Parting

    “Please use punctuation it’s quiet ambiguous.”

    I didn’t know if you meant the ambiguous was quiet or what. Also, you need to punctuate that first sentence. The first three words is a complete sentence by themselves, but then that leaves the last three dangling. They don’t form a complete sentence in that it needs a subject other than the word “it’s”. This is a run-on sentence that needs a comma, semi-colon or even a colon between the word “punctuation” and “it’s”. Indeed, your use of the word “quiet” is ambiguous to me although I could probably ascertain that you meant “quite” from the context.

    In short, don’t be a dick.

  8. @bryon

    Thank you! Now he’ll stop being wrong on the Internet (shameless XKCD reference)! Also, “The first three words is” should be “The first three words are.” XD

    @The Article

    This is seriously awesome. It reminds me of “Claw” from Inspector Gadget–anyone remember those movies?

  9. @Alex Parting – Agreed. It really annoys me that HaD editors dont check their posts before making them public. There’s nearly always words or letters missing or jumbled up into the wrong order.

    Sometimes I just skip a story completely, because I can’t be bothered to work out what the author was trying to say.

  10. For those bitching @ Alex. The difference is that he’s a commenter, not an editor/author who is meant to know better.

    We’re not expecting HaD to use spell/grammar checks and get everything 100% perfect. I would just like to be able to read HaD posts without going over them a couple of times to work out what the author was really trying to say.

    Props to the son for putting in the effort and coming up with the original design. I would have liked to see a video of the arm in action, rather than just pictures. But I can understand why its just pictures at this point.

    Keep on working on it and share your developments with us :)

  11. I also read it as

    “After a motorcycle accident that cost him is arm [Martin] and his son, [Luke] chose not to give up.”

    instead of

    “After a motorcycle accident that cost him is arm, [Martin] and his son [Luke] chose not to give up.”

  12. I’d probably go for brain/nerve control next. If you’ve got that one working, you can concentrate on getting the arm to work better, maybe try to build an actual hand with three (or more) fingers.

    If this had happened to me, I’d be the first to mod my prosthesis. I’d probably fill the encasing with electronics and sensors, and give feedback to my remaining nerves, or try to mod the arm so I actually had feeling in the hand. It can’t be that hard, after all, nerve signals don’t really have a protocol to adhere to. You just fire away at them and let the brain figure out what it means.

  13. Admittedly (and thankfully…) I don’t know much at all about prostheses but I was always under the impression that if you ever found yourself in need of one, the attitude tends to be “okay here’s a hook, now will you please stop bothering us and go away – unless you’d happen to be filthy rich, in which case we have just the thing for you, please sign this check right here…”.

    Personally (if that is really so) I find that preposterous. I get it that “The empire strikes back”-level artificial limbs might not quite be available today and/or cheap, but the fact that one might need to cobble together something as featured here by himself instead of having it available officially if needed is nothing short of an insult. That’s not rocket science, people, and it’s definitely not worth the heaps of $ the prosthetics industry hopes to make on the misery of all the unfortunate people.

    That aside, props to its maker, I hope it’ll serve him well.

  14. Dammit, I seem to have a doppelgänger lately (I only wrote the second post above). Very well, since I’m in no mood of lengthy debates over who is who and who was there first, I’ll henceforth sign as “Mad Max” and be done with it. Thanks for your attention, move along now…

  15. @Max
    Totally! The business of medical stuff is pure scum!

    This dude is a very lucky person. Not because of the accident but because of his awesome son with supportive family and friends! I don’t know many people with that luck!

  16. I know people who work in the business of prosthetics. And the amount of time, effort and energy that goes into customising prosthetics to an individual is large. It takes a lot of skill, knowledge and effort to be able to get something to bolt onto the human body comfortably, especially when no two people, and no two injuries are the same. So no mass manufacture. Should the people who spend years of their life learning such a craft be paid as well as any other profession? Yeh, I thought so. There are plenty of “scum business” stuff going on in medicine, but from what I’ve seen, prosthetics isn’t the best area to pick.

  17. Hey, I just had a thought. There are already some “hackduinos” out there for some basic automation, any way to create a hackduino to serve as a basic controller for a prosthesis?

    Or am I just talking through my keyboard again?


  18. Prosthetics aren’t (as a general rule) over priced, thye are INSANELY time consuming to make. Also the groups that produce them are often so under-funded they can’t get something as simple as a rapid prototyper or shiny like a high res 3d scanner.

    The biggest frustration I’ve seen is that the surgeons performing the amputation insist that leaving as much limb as possible is the only way to go. This leads to the swollen bulbous remaining limbs often associated with amputation and the odd-fitting appearance of a lot of prosthetic arms especially.

    If they would just bloody LISTEN to the prosthetics specialist they would understand how much pain they could save the patient by tapering the remaining limb, but nooooo… Bloody surgeon always knows best.

  19. EPIC, well thought out, well built, and for an incredible cause, this is the HaD gold i’m used to reading…

    What an amazing accomplishment, congratulations! I can’t think of a development front that is more worthy of open-source focus than prosthetics, It’s really neat to see some real high-level work completed on the topic.

  20. Hi everybody, I thank you for the support and your nice comments. You give me power to carry on.

    What really gets me is that one cannot find, in between, prosthetic limbs. Either the pre-historic hook-which I hate, or the top end, big money models. With the help of my son, we tried to create a claw which is cheap to build and easy to repair. Personally, I think that we are still far from replacing the arm due to the complexity.I also think that this is where, most of the commercial, prosthetic units are failing. I would work on a model that can help the other arm and help the disabled person in a different way, such as, having a stronger grip, by having a means of attaching tools-according to the person’s work or hobby, and so on. Now that I have lost my arm, I would like to have one more adapted to my skill/needs. In fact, that is why we went for a claw type hand, as this fits better to my needs. Unfortunately, as funds are low, we are very restricted to what we can build.

    Some improvements have been made to my ‘electric claw’ and I promise to put a video clip in the near future to show my claw better.

    I thank you once again, Regards MC.

  21. Lost my rite arm November 07 – would luv 2 know more. I’ve Ben riding street bikes all my life- I’m now 37 and would luv 2 ride again. The Doc who designed my arm tells me 2 b glad the car acc- didn’t take my life also. Yes I’m fortunate but I have 2 depend on my left arm 4everything and it causes a lot of pain so I would like 2 purchase your arm if possible

    1. Hi, thanks for writing and I’m sorry for your injuries. We would like very much to help you but you have to give us more information to go on. For instance, what kind of prosthesis you have and how the hand/hook connects on, maybe a few pictures will help a great deal. The other thing is that you have to do the finishing touches yourself as these can only be done on site and I don’t think that you are willing to come over to Malta so we can put it all together. About the price, we are not looking to do a big profit, we just need you to cover us the expenses. We can check that out for you in advance though. I hope we have been a bit of help to you. Check the site as I will be posting a better clip of the claw soon. Keep up your spirit high and take care, MC.

  22. hey there, im at my wits end my son has had a prothesis had the claw/hook myeo electric tried all that the nhs offer..Offered to pay as now stunted my sons self worth was told no nothing else avaliable which i dont believe cause termainator its not SO more like horror sit com from 1920’s. mcdonalds did a better happy meal toy which is just damn rude …PLEASE HELP

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