Thanks to 3D printing, high quality prosthetic limbs are cheaper and easier to obtain than ever before.
Twelve-year-old Leon McCarthy has been missing fingers on his left hand since birth due to lack of blood flow during his development. within the womb. Traditional prosthetic units to help people like Leon can run tens of thousands of dollars. In search of a cost-effective alternative, Leon’s father discovered a YouTube video by inventor Ivan Owen. Owen and Richard Von As from Johannesberg, South Africa began to collaborate on a high quality, low cost 3D printed prosthetic (which has already been covered by IFLScience). Because Owen and Van As do not hold a patent or charge to download the plans for the hand, the cost of materials is all that is required.
Despite the materials being inexpensive, 3D printers still carry a hefty price tag. Fortunately, Leon’s school owns a 3D printer and made it available. With only $10 in material and about 20 minutes with the printer, Leon now has a new “cyborg” hand with fingers able to close, which he sees as “special, not different.” The fingers are controlled by flexing the wrist, which pulls on cable “tendons” to close around the desired object.
Leon is now able to grasp his backpack handle, hand a snack to a friend, and even grip the handlebars on his bike just like any other kid with two hands. As Leon grows up, Paul will merely have to print another device to accommodate the larger wrist. Because the hands are so inexpensive to build, the two have been able to tweak different designs in order to find something to better suit Leon’s needs.