Feb.2, 2015 | By Alec

It’s no secret that 3D printing technology is perfect for making prosthetics; private and collaborative initiatives (like E-NABLE) have been able to help thousands of people who have lost a limb or were born without one for just a few bucks. You’d be surprised how much you can change someone’s life with just a single role of filament.

Perhaps the best thing about these 3D printing prosthetics is the possible level of customization. Most simply attach to the wrist and feature a mechanical grip (Simply flick your wrist up or downwards, and the fingers move inwards or outwards), but they can be customized to fit any portion of the arm as well and even preform a series of other actions (like this cool Iron Man glove imitation). But the owner of the most impressive 3D printed prosthetic is undoubtedly the 17-year-old Diego Corredor, from Colombia. Why? Because he can play guitar with it.

Now Diego’s life story is unfortunately quite familiar to others born without a certain limb. From a small town on the outskirts of Bogotá, Colombia, Diego was born with a congenital amputation of his right hand. While fitted with other prostheses as a child, these were never great. They tended to break, be uncomfortable or featured a mechanical grip that was hardly worth all the trouble, and by the age of eight he decided that he didn’t want to have a replacement for his hand anymore.

However all of that was to change years later, when first meeting Juan Camilo Monroy, a Colombian 3D designer. Juan and his sister Andrea Monroy have just launched a brand new online marketplace for 3D design and 3D printing called 3Dglück, which aims to provide 3D creation services to people across Latin America. Juan is the marketplace’s main designer, and fortunately the two of them were happy to tell us more about their most unusual creation.

As they explained, Juan understood Diego’s frustration about his hand and his previous prosthetics, but felt that 3D printing could offer a solution. "After talking to him and his family Juan Camilo understood their frustration and the fact that most of the time prosthesis are not exactly made to meet the needs of a specific person." Juan said.

Andrea added that Diego was only interested in prosthetics that would allow him to do extraordinary things, like playing an instrument. "That was his ambition, we wanted to used his arm. There is a quote by Luois Borges that says “I am not who I am, I am what I do with my hands”, that is exactly the way Diego perceives life. Why would someone want an expensive prosthesis if they cannot do extraordinary things like playing piano, guitar or take a picture? Why is the main goal covering the problem?" Andrea said.

For Diego, as it turns out, is absolutely crazy about rock music, and the only type of prosthetic he would wear was one that could enable him to realize his dream of playing a guitar. Juan, fortunately, had just the tools to help him, and together they set out designing and creating a prosthetic that could do just that. And while it looks simple enough on the photos, that isn’t so easy as you might think.

For playing the guitar requires very exact motions and pressures on the muscles and cartilage of the human hand, so there’s a lot more to it that adding a pick to a plastic prosthetic. They therefore heavily relied on a book by Adalbert Ibrahim Kapandji on human physiology, "The Physiology of the Joints volume 6", which describes the detailed pronation and supination movements of playing a guitar. With this knowledge, they developed six prototypes, eventually adding a series of springs that enable the necessary pick movements.

The result therefore doesn’t quite resemble a prosthetic hand as we often come across, though it exactly functions as a hand holding a pick. It is worn with a non-skid fabric underneath to ensure a secure fit, and can be controlled using the pronation and supination movements of the arm. And of course, a Linkin Park logo was added because it’s Diego’s favorite rock band, who inspired the arm in the first place.

The prosthetic itself was printed on a Fortus 380mc (of Stratasys), as Juan and Andrea don’t actually own a printer themselves. "We do not own the printer so we worked with Imocom which is a company that distributes this machines. There are not many distributers in Colombia and this technology still remained as something hard to understand," Andrea said. All in all, it took the 3D printer six hours to complete the prosthetic in ABS, costing them a total of $300.

But seeing Diego actually being able to play a guitar with his prosthetic is well worth the investment (above), and it makes you wonder about the purpose of a 3D printed prosthetic. Do they only serve to cover up a defect in you as a person, or can they be an addition or even an expression of your identity? It’s truly inspiring to see how 3D printing can affect peoples’ lives like that.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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