A growing network of volunteers from all over the world has come together to help create and design 3D-printed assistive hand devices for individuals in need. According to the website, this network, known as the e-NABLE Group, includes prosthestists, occupational therapists, engineers, students, makers, parents, designers, teachers, philanthropists, and many more. The group reportedly devotes its “free time” to creating open source designs for mechanical hand assistive devices that can be downloaded and 3D printed for less than $50 in materials.
The range of designs include the myoelectric Limbitless Arm, developed by the UCF (University of Central Florida), led by Albert Manero, The Odysseus Hand, which uses three fingers to reduce the force necessary for grasping and was developed by Peter Brinkley, and The Cyborg Beast, developed by Jorge Zuniga and his research team at Creighton University and featuring textured finger tips for improved grip, Chicago screw joints, protected cable routing through the body of the palm, and integrated tensioning system in the gauntlet.
Since these and other designs are open source, they can be downloaded by “anyone, anywhere” to create hands for individuals who may need them or to allow others to take these designs and improve upon them.
The technology is available in a variety of designs, and pricing is dependent upon which materials clients choose. The site notes that costs for the designs, on average, run from about $20 USD to about $50. Users can make their own hand with access to a 3D printer and a few hand tools. Resources to find these are available on the e-NABLE’s website.
The site adds that the designs have been approved for testing through Creighton University and recommends careful observation while using the devices to ensure comfort and fit, involving a family physician’s input and guidance. The group also discourages use of the devices with exceptionally young children, such as those under the age of 4, as they may not express feelings of discomfort with the device, and this may increase the potential of injury.
According to the site, the hands work best for individuals who still have a palm and at least a 30-degree motion in the wrist. The device relies on wrist movement to work in order to provide the appropriate movement to cause the fingers to close and open.
The organization will appear at the conference “Prosthetists Meets 3D Printers: Mainstreaming Open Source 3D Printed Prosthetics for Underserved Populations” on September 28, 2014 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.