Dec 12, 2016 | By Tess

Ryan Bouricius, a university physics major from Ithaca College, has once again demonstrated how 3D printing technologies can be used to create functional and very affordable prosthetic hands. The student’s innovative design, which draws from and improves upon other open-source prosthetics, is capable of gripping, catching, and even writing.

There is little doubt that one of the most accessible medical applications for 3D printing is the production of functional prosthetic hands. And while the 3D printed devices are perhaps not as sleek or inconspicuous as their more professionally-designed counterparts, they have presented an affordable and bespoke solution to help many people without access to expensive prosthetic and implant treatments. Especially for children, who outgrow their prosthetics quickly, having an easy way to manufacture custom fitted prosthetic hands is a huge bonus.

Bouricius, who is a teaching assistant for the Ithaca College 3D Printing Lab, was inspired to create his own 3D printed hand prosthetic after coming across a number of open-source designs online. From these, he was able to 3D print and assemble a 3D printed hand in one day. After completing his first hand successfully, the physics major decided to make some adjustments and improvements to its design.

As part of his adjustments, Bouricius changed the orientation of the 3D printed prosthetic’s thumb so that it could be used to grab objects in a more efficient manner. He also made some adjustments to improve the grip of the 3D printed hand. Like many 3D printed hands, the movements of Bouricius’ prosthetic are controlled by the user’s wrist movements. Over the development process, the student maker explains that he has tried to use his prosthetic as often as possible, not only to see how it works, but to better understand how living with a prosthetic is like.

Overall, Bouricius was able to make a functional 3D printed prosthetic hand for the low cost of $15. As the maker explains, "The nice thing about 3D printing is that the price only has to do with the amount of plastic used, not the complexity of the piece. So even though my modified pieces are trickier shapes, since it's the same amount of plastic, it's the same amount of money.”

According to the student’s supervisor, Professor Michael ‘Bodhi’ Rogers, the 3D printed prosthetic even offers some advantages over electronic prostheses, which are expensive, very complicated to repair, and overall pretty inaccessible. By contrast, the 3D printed prosthetic costs only $15 to manufacture and can be repaired by simply re-printing replacement parts. Additionally, through non-profit organizations like e-NABLE, 3D printed prosthetic hands are increasingly easy to get a hold of, helping many people with little access to top medical care.

In fact, Bouricius will be working with e-NABLE to find a suitable recipient for his 3D printed prosthetic. “They know I live in New York, so if someone contacts them they will look at a map and tell them there’s someone at Ithaca College,” the maker explained. “Once they contact us then it’s left to us to work out the rest.”

e-NABLE, an organization that gives children access to 3D printed prosthetics through its network of volunteer makers, has made a difference in people’s lives all over the world. With innovative and generous makers like Bouricius up to the task, it is no wonder that the organization has made and continues to make such an impact.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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