April 21, 2014

Jose Delgado Jr. Jose, 53 year old, was born without most of his left hand and in the past year, he had been using a prosthetic hand that costs $42,000, which he paid about half out of pocket. This myoelectric version uses the muscle signals in his forearm to trigger the closing or opening of the fingers, like a real hand would.

In the past few years, many teams in the world are helping to transform the lives of those who have lost limbs. They made 3D printed prosthetic limbs for those who lost their arms or legs and helped to transform their lives.

Jose visited e-NABLE member Jeremy Simon and asked if he could help make a 3D printed prosthesis for him. Created by Jon Schull, a researcher at Rochester Institute of Technology, e-NABLE pairs children and adults with missing or deformed fingers, hands or forearms with makers who produce customized 3D printed prostheses that can improve their lives.

Jeremy used the design of the "Cyborg Beast" by Jorge Zuniga, an assistant professor of exercise science at Creighton University and printed a Cyborg Beast hand for Jose. "I wasn't expecting too much", said Jeremy. Jose works in an environment that involves a lot of lifting and moving of boxes, and the Cyborg Beast is made of ABS plastic (same material as legos), so Jeremy expected it wouldn't hold up for long.

But he was very curious to see the result. So Jeremy and Jose met up again to discuss how his current $42,000 myoelectric prosthetic compares to the $50 3D printed "Cyborg Beast" hand that Jeremy created for him.

Jose has been using multiple types of prosthetic devices for years, so he's very familiar with what can or can't be done with them in terms of day-to-day functionality. To his surprise, Jose said he actually prefers the 3D printed Cyborg Beast to his far more expensive myoelectric prosthesis.

Jose claims that the simple, mechanical design of Cyborg Beast is even more comfortable and provides more day-to-day functionality than the expensive version. And if a piece breaks, he could simply print a new one in a few hours.

A typical prosthetic hand from a company will run you more than $10,000, but materials for a 3D printed hand can cost less than $50. The design, research, development and prototyping time for these 3D printable limbs designs has been donated by many individuals in the e-NABLE community, a group of 700 people globally. The design is open source and thus no rights have had to be purchased to use or make them. Therefore it is possible to produce a partial hand for a cost of less than $50 as compared to a retail device with a price of thousands.

Jeremy says he is working with Jose on printing another new hand and this time using a material called Bridge nylon, which is stronger than the previous material and also light weighted. "I'll also be providing him with an alternate thumb mount that will enable a different kind of grip." Jeremy said.

According to Jeremy, there is already been active design efforts within the e-NABLE volunteer community to develop an elbow-actuated version and will be released soon as open source.

Jeremy posted a video in which Jose compares the $50 3D-printed hand to his $42,000 Myoelectric Prosthesis, watch below:

Below is a video of Jeremy assembling one for the first time. "I have no background in prosthetics or mechanical engineering, so if I can do this, anyone can. Of course, a prosthetist or other medical professional should always be involved when doing one of these for real, in order to ensure proper fit, check periodically for irritation, etc."

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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