Jan 14, 2016 | By Benedict

Hands up if you think 3D printed prostheses are a great thing! In recent years, additive manufacturing technology has been grasped by huge numbers of new and established companies who all believe they can offer low-cost, high-quality prosthetic limbs to those who need them. Prosthesis startup Biomechanical Robotics Group (BRG) has followed suit, creating a DIY kit from which users can assemble their own 3D printed prosthetic hand. The Hobby Hand, now the subject of a $30,000 Kickstarter campaign, promises easy controllability and accurate imitation of natural hand movement.

Iowa based BRG has been working on its 3D printed Hobby Hand for some time, and has now gone public with the project in the hope of securing $30,000 of Kickstarter backing. An open source test bench for the project will preview technologies from the company’s previous Nu-Hand model, which was the subject of an unsuccessful $50,000 Kickstarter campaign last year. Having learnt from the mistakes of that project, the ambitious startup hopes that its new, more affordable kit will be snapped up by its hobbyist target audience.

Rather than launch the 3D printed Hobby Hand solely as a readymade prosthesis for immediate wear, BRG has instead made the platform a project “for hobbyists, tinkerers, DIYers, and those who are interested in learning about robotics”. The robotic hand can be used an educational platform for programming, micro-controllers, analog sensors and hardware.

The 3D printed hand can be purchased assembled or unassembled, depending on the customer’s needs. The unassembled kit can be put together with a soldering iron and basic hand tools, with a step-by-step instruction manual provided to give users a helping hand along the way. All 3D printed parts of the prosthesis are printed in durable PLA.

The 3D printed prosthesis is powered by an Arduino Mega micro-controller. The Mega board is mated with a sensor shield, which provides expandability and flexibility. Since the project is all about customizability, Hobby Hand users are encouraged to program their own hand movements using either custom code or with snippets provided by BRG.

Five servo motors give the Hobby Hand its realistic lateral movement, whilst another five supply the prosthesis with flexion. The hand is mounted onto the servo motor frame with a special top piece, which helps guide the flexion cables to their appropriate servos. A servo motor base houses an Arduino Mega, with a servo shield tucking under the frame. All motors, sensors and additional peripherals are attached a board, which functions as the control center of the device. An analog board of potentiometers then controls the flexion and lateral movement of each finger.

So how does the Hobby Hand deliver on its promise of natural hand movement using only servo motors? The solution is simple but effective: Four bands saddle the center line to maximize the stability of each finger. The bands gently bring each finger back to its natural resting position after closing.

One particularly exciting feature of the Hobby Hand is its potential for modifications and add-ons. A mini breadboard attached to the servo motor frame can be used to attach extra analog sensors, LEDs, speakers and such like.

After setting an initial target of $30,000 for its Kickstarter campaign, BRG has already received over $5,000 of pledges with 28 days left of the campaign. The Hobby Hand “Lite Kit” starts at $105, with the “Full Kit” starting at $155. All packages are expected to ship in June 2016, should the project meet its target.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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