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Liam with his RoboHand
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MakerBot's RoboHand Video
While the mainstream media falls over itself trying to scare the world about the human-harm Cody Wilson’s 3D printed gun could do, Bre Pettis’s MakerBot have showed the other side of the spectrum, with one of the most heart-warming videos about 3D printing we’ve ever seen.
In my first week in the industry at the start of this year, I mentioned Richard Van As’ RoboHand one of my favourite things I’d seen 3D printing do, but until now I was unaware of how MakerBot have played such a big part in the design and the interest that has since been generated.
In 2011, Richard Van As, a carpenter by trade lost four fingers on his right hand in an accident at work. In the emergency room he’d already decided he’d make some fingers for himself. He was told it was impossible and figured out that all current solutions out there were unsuitable for his needs to regain dexterity.
Undeterred he got in touch with Ivan Owen, a Washington-based mechanical engineer whose work on mechanical puppetry for stage and film intrigued Richard a great deal. After research the pair decided 3D printing was the only way forward. With the help of a MakerBot Replicator 2 the pair were able to collaborate on design despite being 10,000 miles apart.
Instead of having to send prototypes back and forth across the North and South Atlantic, potentially taking weeks, with a 3D printer in each office they could print in hours and discuss and adjust in a matter of hours.
Richard set up a facebook page detailing his own personal RoboHand quest, but when a mother of a child with Amniotic Band Syndrome asked Richard if he could print her son a hand, Richard realised the potential of his design.
Young Liam’s RoboHand proved such a success Richard began to become inundated with requests from other parents whose children have been affected by the deformities that occur in around 1 in 1,200 births.
The MakerBot documentary focuses on three young boys who have been fitted with the 3D printed device; Dylan, Waldo and, of course, Liam. The joy that is illuminated from the faces of the lads and their parents when they catch a ball, pick up a pencil, talk about riding a bike… tells you all you need to do about this marvellous project.
Only three components of the RoboHand are not printed on a Replicator 2 so what are the benefits of 3D printing as opposed to traditional manufacturing?
- Easier collaboration
- Easy replacement of parts
- Easier growth adjustments
Because the grasping mechanism is controlled by the wrist and linked wires (there are no electrical parts to the RoboHand) Richard does recommend enlisting the help of an occupational therapist to aid dexterity in the wrist. However, he also says that with dedication it is more than possible that somebody could print and teach themselves how to use it without anybody's help. The files are all on thingiverse to download, all you would then need is access to a 3D printer and the readily available non-3D printed parts.
We love RoboHand here at Personalize and it was up to RoboHand user Dylan to give us the best quote for a use for a 3D printed item EVER,
“On Tuesday, I am going to play cricket and now I will be able to catch the ball with my right hand!”