Jul 5, 2017 | By Benedict

Dani Clode, a graduate student at London’s Royal College of Art (RCA), has used 3D printing to create a wearable prosthetic third thumb. The prosthesis helps wearers grip, squeeze, and even perform complex tasks like playing the guitar.

Prosthetic devices, whether an entire leg or a little finger, are generally associated with disability: wearers require prosthetic devices to make up for a deficiency of some sort. Dani Clode, a London-based postgraduate student, wants to change that perception.

For Clode, prostheses should be thought of in more positive terms: as devices that “extend” one’s ability, rather than “fix” something. That was the philosophy behind her latest creation, a 3D printed prosthetic thumb that extends the wearer’s abilities, allowing them to grip and manipulate objects in new ways.

“The origin of the word 'prosthesis' meant 'to add, put onto,’ so not to fix or replace, but to extend,” Clode recently told Dezeen. “The Third Thumb is inspired by this word origin, exploring human augmentation and aiming to reframe prosthetics as extensions of the body.”

The so-called “Third Thumb” is controlled by the wearer’s feet via pressure sensors embedded in their shoes. That might sound difficult, but Clode reckons it’s more natural than you might think: after all, we utilize connections between hands and feet when performing activities like driving a car and playing a piano.

The Third Thumb is made from Ninjaflex filament, while two motors allow the thumb to move in several directions, bending on three hinges. The prosthesis is held in place by a 3D printed resin cover.

New Zealand-born Clode says that the 3D printed Third Thumb could be customized to fit different hand sizes, and she also plans to make different versions of the design.

The 2017 RCA graduate exhibition ran from 24 June to 2 July at the university’s Kensington campus.

(Images: Dezeen)

3D printed prosthetics are one of the most talked-about technologies of the last few years. Low-cost prosthetic devices like those made by the international e-NABLE community have brought mobility and dexterity to people who might never have been able to access or afford prosthetic devices in the past. Furthermore, more high-end 3D printed devices are giving wearers a better fit and higher level of ability from their prostheses.

While the development of prosthetic devices for disabled people surely must remain a priority, Clode’s device certainly presents interesting possibilities for able-bodied wearers too.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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