By: 1 March 2017
Student prints 3D prosthetic hand for $15

Using just a 3D printer and with a budget of only $15, a physics undergraduate at Ithaca College in the USA has created a prosthetic hand that can be used to grip, write and catch a ball. The hand is designed to use wrist movement to control the fingers to grab and hold various objects.

Ryan Bouricius became interested in building prostheses after watching a YouTube video of someone printing and assembling prosthetic hands for little cost. He found free designs online, printed out the pieces and assembled a hand in one day. Since then, he has been working on the prosthetic device and figuring out ways it can be improved.

Physics professor Michael Rogers oversees the 3D printing lab at Ithaca and has watched Bouricius work to improve the prosthesis. He says that the 3D-printed hand has many advantages over an electronic prosthesis: “There are people who are working on electronic hands, but they’re extremely expensive, not easy to repair and many are not available for sale,” said Rogers.

Bouricius said that unlike electronic hands, which are typically made from metal, complex components are not more expensive to make for his mostly plastic model.

“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,” he added. “So even though my modified pieces are trickier shapes, since it’s the same amount of plastic, it’s the same amount of money.”

This is especially important for families with children who need prostheses, where the costs of providing replacements can be considerable over time. With 3D printing, however, Bouricius’ model can be affordably re-printed in larger sizes as the child grows.

Bouricius is working with e-NABLE, a non-profit organisation that matches 3D-printed prostheses in the USA with those in need of them, to find a recipient for his printed hand.

Source: Ithaca College

Caption: Physics student Ryan Bouricius with the prosthetic hand he built.

Credit: Image courtesy of Ithaca College