Jan.24, 2013

Richard in South Africa lost four fingers in a tragic woodworking accident. He lost two full fingers and most of his other two fingers on his right hand. He is right handed, and he absolutely needs his hands for his trade.

When he came out of hospital he searched high and low for a prosthetic finger but all he could find was the X-Finger at a cost of $10,000, which is way out of reach.

Richard contacted Ivan Owen, a designer in Washington State who was working on making functional Mechanical hands. No hesitation, the two decided to work together (full story here).

Right before Ivan flied to South Africa to join Richard, Richard got new visitors at his home workshop. That was Little Liam and his parents. Liam is nearly 5 years old and was born with Ambiotic Band Syndrome. He has no fingers on his right hand.

His parents drove to Richard's place and met with him to discuss if there is a possible affordable solution to get little Liam a thumb and some fingers. Ivan and Richard were both already designing and working on designs from 10,000 miles apart to create a functioning prosthetic, no doubt, this became their new mission - to create a solid prototype not only for Richard's hand, but also for Little Liam.

Richard started immediately with a new design specially made for Little Liam, the first portion of the prosthetic for the hand and wrist. Ivan flied to South Africa on November 18, 2012, it was the first time they met face to face.

Together they made the first set of mechanical fingers for Little Liam. On November 22, 2012, Liam got his new fingers. The image below shows "the exact moment that little Liam grabbed an object with his right hand – for the very first time in his entire life. That smile – is golden." Liam's life was about to change.

Liam's progress on Dec.8, 2012: Liam and his mother, Yolandi, practicing with his Robohand.

As of early January, 2013, Richard has got his own Robohand with increased function. By then, their project was one year old. Richard could now type with his home-made mech finger.

(On the far right is one of the earliest prototypes. As you progress towards the left, you can see how the prototype is refined. The proto on the far left is the latest fine-tuned, polished design.)

Several month back Richard and Ivan contacted Makerbot and shared their story of the project. They got not only response with words of encouragement but also an offer to provide them with two Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printer for free. One machine is now set up in Ivan's workshop in USA and the other arrived South Africa on Jan.17, 2013.

(Images credit: comingupshorthanded.com)

It is incredible. Truly something that feels like it's straight out of science fiction. What this means for us is that, although separated by 10,000 miles, Richard and can design, test and then email a three dimensional object to Ivan. Then, Ivan can make changes to the design, and send the updated file back to Rich. No shipping times involved, no guess work looking at videos. We can send and receive tangible objects across a vast distance with a click of a button. It's like something out of Star Trek.

Another exciting potential: Objects created this way can be scaled to any size. What this means is that, in the case of someone like the little guy Liam, a finger that's designed can be up-scaled an reprinted periodically so that the fingers increase in size as he grows. No need to re-design it each time!

Here's a video of a device was printed using one of the Replicator 2 3D printer. It's designed to help increase the functionality of a hand of Little Liam.

Richard and Ivan have tried to improve the design from time to time to increase its function of the design. "We don't want to stop at "good enough". It's now time for seeking out the "even better"!! Here is the latest update of Liam's hand:

And the best part is, they are giving this design away for free – so that many people like Richard and Little Liam who are in need can have fingers again, without bankrupting their families in the process.


Very soon, Liam will be the first recipiant of the duo's now production-ready full finger replacement design. The cost to Liam and his family... $0.

Follow this project here, and if you would like to contribute, visit their fundraising page.

Thanks David M. for the tip!



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive