Dec 19, 2016 | By Tess

A team of engineers from the Amrita University in India have developed a new robotic 3D printed prosthetic hand. The robotic prosthetic, which can lift objects that weigh up to 400 grams and can even handle a mobile phone, was presented by the engineers at a conference in Kollum, Kerala dealing with humanitarian-based applications for robotics and automation.

The 3D printed prosthetic could offer an alternative to conventional robotic prosthetics, which as many will know, are very expensive, often to the point of being inaccessible. By using 3D printing technologies to produce their innovative hand prosthetic, the researchers have managed to significantly cut down on material and production costs without sacrificing quality or functions.

As Dr. Ganesha Upuda, a professor in the department of mechanical engineering at Amrita University, explained: “It’s a novel underactuated hand, made using rubber and nickel. Lab tests of the hand showed better potential compared to other prosthetic hands available, in terms of load carrying capacity, durability and strength. The technology has the potential for a wider application besides being used for prosthetic limbs.”

Unlike many more basic 3D printed prosthetic hands, the one developed by the Amrita researchers consists of fingers and a thumb which is powered by low weight servo motors. Controlled by myoelectric sensors and powered by a 12V rechargeable battery, the hand can even be controlled by movements made by the wearers body, which are picked up by the sensors and translated into programmed movements. The prosthetic hand’s movements themselves are achieved through servomotors which operate pulleys and strings attached to the fingers.

In its current iteration, the 3D printed robotic hand can be controlled through software that can be accessed via computer, mobile phone, or even bluetooth. Ultimately though, the researchers hope to do away with the software and controlling devices and have their 3D printed prosthetic fully controlled by the user’s brain.

As mentioned, 3D printing allowed the researchers to significantly lower the cost of their robotic prosthetic. Traditionally, functional prosthetic hands require complex materials and constructions to operate. For instance, they usually require hydraulic or pneumatic elements like wires, cables, chains, belts, artificial muscles, and more. As one can imagine, this means that prosthetics are often very expensive, and more often than not, quite heavy to wear. As Dr. Udapa comments, “About 50 per cent of handicaps do not use their prosthetics regularly, due to its heavy weight and low functionality.”

With their new lower-cost but still functional 3D printed hand prosthetic, the engineers are hoping to help improve the lives of those living with upper limb disabilities. Before their innovative product can be commercialized and made readily available, however, they must register for a patent—a process which is reportedly already under way.

 

 

Source: [DNA India]

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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