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Redesigning the future of prosthetics with 3D printers

Thursday 4th July 2013

In May 2011, Richard Van As, a carpenter from South Africa, lost two of his fingers with a table saw. As soon as he walked out of the hospital he was determined to gain his fingers back. A professionally manufactured bionic hand costs a lot of money, more than he could afford ...

However, one day he came across a video on You Tube in which a special effects editor from Washington, Ivan Owen, was demonstrating a bug puppet hand that relies on thin steel cables to act like tendons, allowing the metal digits to bend. Van As and Owen started working together to create handmade 3D printed mechanical fingers. The goal couldn’t have been reached without the help of MakerBot, who provided Owen and Van As with a free 3D-Printer. They were then able to redesign, print and test their ideas very quickly. With further improvements, the new Robohand is available on Thingiverse which is inexpensive and is now designed to snap together.

Following this, the duo then went on to help Liam Dippener, a 5 year old boy who was born without fingers on his right hand because of a congenital syndrome known as amniotic band syndrome. The up and down movement of Dippener’s wrist allowed the five aluminium fingers to open and close.

3D Printing or better known as Rapid Prototyping has become an incredibly popular and powerful manufacturing tool for engineers and designers. In fact, the School of Engineering and Materials Science has recently purchased a 3D Printer. All the Medical Engineering students have the unique opportunity to design products on CAD and manufacture it using this rapid prototyping technology.

Falaque Ahmed (Medical Engineering undergraduate student).

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