A non-profit organization from Victoria, British Columbia has been creating helping hands– literally.
According to The Globe and Mail, The Victoria Hand Project, led by Josh Coutts, designs and develops customized prosthetic hands for those in developing countries.
These hands are designed using a 3D printer.
“There is a great need,” says Coutts who has been setting up systems in Haiti, Guatemala, Nepal, and Cambodia.
The design of the hands is based on one developed by Nikolai Dechev, director of biomedical engineering at the University of Victoria who developed a mechanical hand out of plastic and aluminum. The design included a Kevlar cable to pull in the fingers for grasping. While it was innovative, it cost $1,500 just to manufacture the parts and did not have a practical application.
“Then along came 3D printing,” Coutts says.
The customized device is created with a 3D scanner and a 3D printer builds it. A heated plastic filament is used for the filament.
The hands are controlled with shoulder shrugs and a shoulder harness. Strong shoulder shrugs result in tighter hand grips. The design is a cross between a cosmetic hand and a functional split hook. The user can hold a cellphone or carry a bag.
However, it does not provide the strength of a fully functioning hand.
“The organization works with clinics and hospitals to train technicians to use the assembly equipment. The kit includes a 3D scanner, two printers, filament, silicone fingertips, springs, nuts and bolts.
“Technology is very empowering, but the one thing I have learned is that while the engineering is such a huge aspect, what is more important is who is actually getting these devices to people who need them, ” says Coutts.
The university students are working to refine the hands’ functionality and appearance.. Another focus is to expand who can use these hands. Currently, they only work for those who have had amputations between the elbow and wrist.