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.

Building the hand is predictably complex, and [Huchet] required the assistance from his colleagues to complete the project. In addition, the design isn’t perfect — the materials aren’t as robust as professional prosthetics, and the servos are prone to overheating after a mere 15 minutes — but it is nonetheless capable of simple tasks and can deliver a lot more functionality than some people presently have access to.

While not technically inclined himself, in [Huchet’s] words, “the project comes from the passion for technology and sharing knowledge, the desire to help others”. Even though other makers have been pushing the boundaries of open-source prosthetics, it is important that amputees are “being a part of healing [themselves].”

[via Eugene Johnson]

13 thoughts on “3D-Printed Prosthetic Puts The Power In The Hands Of Those Who Need It

  1. This is seriously cool… its one of the dev areas I would love to be involved in. Its mad, but i just dont get with the level of tech we have now, why dont we have really good prosthetic robot limbs that are as good as or near enough if not better than the original limb.

    1. Current technology is far from being near good enough than an original limb. I for example know of no technology that can emulate the tactile sense or the feel for temperature of a human limb. Sure you can have one or even multiple sensors, but remember that the human skin is covered (in varying density) with these sensors. Furthermore there is no adequate interface for exchanging data between the brain and the prosthetic. Imagine the needed bandwidth for thousends of pressure sensor embedded in the human skin. With all these in mind I prefer my limbs the way they are.

      As to your question why we currently have shortage of prosthetic limbs that utilize current technology. Well prosthetics was never a mass market (at least not in the first world with its access to current technology) and has therefor not the benefit of economics of scale. Additionally each prosthetic needs to be fitted to its user raising the costs further.

      So how come there is know so much movement in this sector?
      Well one point is obviously the easy access to 3d printers. But furthermore a lot of money is invested in this field through people like hacker/makers in the form of invested time. For a company time is money and they simply don’t have the money to be able to donate it to improve the field of prosthetics. Sad, but true.

      For the people who donate their time to improve the lives of people who lost limbs, I (even if don’t need prosthetics) – and I’m sure a lot of other people – appreciate your effort.

      1. As a prosthetic provider in the US, I can tell you that it’s true that the cost involved to research and develop prosthetic technology is extensive and extremely hard to recoup in the private sector due to insurance and government reimbursement challenges. Additionally, the a custom prosthetic socket/interface needs to be made for each person and requires the expertise of a highly trained individual, a Certified Prosthetist, to ensure correct fit and function.

        But, to your point of needing a brain interface for prosthetics to feel, the technology for prosthetics that can feel is already being developed and tested in the US thanks to DARPA funded grants with a brain interface!

        See http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2015-09-11

        1. While im not blind to the costs of professional prosthetics, I do feel its an area thats been over looked by a lot of people…

          I mean most people dont really think about prosthetics until they see some one with a missing limb or loose a limb themselves.

          I also agree that sure each socket needs to be tailored to the amputee and this isn’t something that can be modular, everything bellow it can.

          Another question, I remember reading maybe 20 years ago about how a metal (i think titanium) could be bonded into a bone and the skin could grow and seal itself to it, providing a strong plug for prosthetics to lock onto, removing the need to have sore inducing straps… That was 20 years ago… Is it just people locking down IPs and not playing fair?

          One last silly question, what happened to artificial muscle? Another thing I saw years ago. Is it just not strong enough?

          1. The first technology you’re referring to is called osseointegration. It’s a promising frontier but still has its own host of complexities involved. It’s an invasive surgical procedure, and requires much more complex rehab protocols, due to the need for the bone to strengthen and grow correctly to support the titanium implant.

            A Certified Prosthetist is still required for prosthetic fitting and follow up who’s trained and understands the mechanics of gait with prosthetics and knows how to deal with alignment and optimization. Additional surgeries are required with a surgeon involved and the cost for that needs to be measured as well.  A typical lower limb prosthetic socket itself (without the additional components like feet,  knees,  etc.) usually costs around $4-8k in the US, and that includes all evaluations fitting and follow up by the prosthetist. With osseointegration, there will be a riskier and much more costly procedure up-front but hopefully lower cost over the life of the amputee (as long as no complications from the implant arise).

            To illustrate,  in Sweden, where osseointegration has been performed since 1990, from 1990 until 2008 only 100 procedures had been done http://www.rehab.research.va.gov/jour/09/46/3/Hagberg.html

            Additionally,  currently there are the following cons:

            Long rehabilitation process: in total, it
            may take up to 18 months for the entire
            process to be complete
            • Risk of infection
            • Risk of fractures and loosening of the
            • Poor cosmesis due to permanent
            • No high-impact activities permitted, such
            as running or jumping
            • Swimming in public facilities is not
            • Daily care of the abutment skin area is

            As the technology advances I’m sure they will deal with these issues but since the sample population is relatively small it will take time.

        2. The continuing misconception that a “certified anything” is needed and the cost associated is what keeps us from innovation blah blah blah. Right now there are a dozen free as in free beer prosthetic designs on Thingiverse that anyone can have printed for under $300.00 and the designs range from just a finger all the way up to a whole arm with a working mechanical hand. There was no prohibiting R&D costs associated and no medical association’s to get in the way. Industries must adapt or die.

  2. How could I get a 3D prosthetic arm? My name is Tiffany Sabine, I am 36 years old and I lost my arm in a car accident 2 years ago. It was amputated right above the elbow. I do not have medical insurance although I did at the time of the accident. I do not know. I am a mother of three boys. I also recently got a job as a cashier and I do pretty well I can only imagine that an arm would make things so much better. I was asked to do a study in Florida for the Mobious Bionic Arm but it would be hard for me to leave my kids for the time that would be needed and I wouldn’t get to keep the arm either. Regardless I was just wondering how one would be able to receive an arm. Thank you for your time

    1. A good start would be to join Hackaday.IO (link at top of page) and have a look through the lists and projects for someone near you. Secondly, Google Makers and Makerspaces to see if there are any near you. You may not find one directly, but they are the “people who know”. Third, look for a local Linux or Open-source computer club, as again they would have the sort of connections you need.

      As someone said above, the advent of affordable 3D printing and small, cheap computing has really opened this whole field. Every day I see more projects appearing. There are a lot on YouTube.

      Good luck.

        1. Thank you, I did find out that there are some great people in the world and at the beginning I was withdrawn from everyone and everything. Now I have decided to make the best of what I gave because im truly blessed to be here. I am much stronger then I realized I think everyone is

      1. Thank-you Oliver, its been hard but I truly believe everything happens for a reason,nothing is by chance. Although I still am not certain why it happened I do believe that one day I will be able to help someone because of what happened. Thanks for the info.

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