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Robohand - A 3D-printed thermoplastic mechanical hand

Shared by Marie Esmenio on 2014-10-20 19:36

About the solution

After watching a YouTube video on which Ivan Owen presents a personally created mechanical hand prop, Richard contacted Ivan and asked him for help in designing and building a low-cost prosthetic hand. They worked together through Skype calls and email exchance. Ivan used his prior experience with mechanical prop hands to make design suggestions, while Richard attempted to replicate the designs in his workshop.
Ivan met Richard in person in South Africa to build the last prototype. While he was there, a mother of a boy (born without a hand) asked them to develop a similar low-cost solution for her son.
The result was Robohand, a 3D-printed thermoplastic set of mechanical fingers that open and close to grasp things based on the motion of the wrist. When the wrist folds and contracts, the cables attaching the fingers to the base structure cause the fingers to curl. Nearly all the parts of a Robohand are 3D printed. Ivan, who played a big part in the initial design stages of Robohand, says he studied the anatomy of crab legs and human fingers to get the basic muscle and tendon structure. The result is a simple assembly that Richard believes anyone can make by themselves.
Robohand was not imagined as a service or a product. Instead, Richard and Ivan shared the design and instructions files for creating a Robohand on Thingiverse so that people around the world could download, customize, print, and assemble for themselves or for others.

In 2015, Ivan was awarded with the Patient Innovation Award, in the Collaborator category. During his days in Portugal, Ivan and Salomé Azevedo, from the Patient Innovation team, teamed up and developed a 3D printing hand for a seven-year-old Portuguese boy named Nuno.
Carla, Nuno’s mother, was informed that Patient Innovation had a 3D printer and contacted the team in order to know if they could make her son a 3D printing hand and arm.
The little guy also helped with the gadget production, by sewing the 3D printing hand with fishing line. As soon as he received his new hand, he immediately started grasping objects and playing, with no difficulties.

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This solution shall not include mention to the use of drugs, chemicals or biologicals (including food); invasive devices; offensive, commercial or inherently dangerous content. This solution was not medically validated. Proceed with caution! If you have any doubts, please consult with a health professional.

DISCLAIMER: This story was written by someone who is not the author of the solution, therefore please be advised that, although it was written with the utmost respect for the innovation and the innovator, there can be some incorrect statements. If you find any errors please contact the patient Innovation team via

About the author

Ivan Owen, from USA, is an artist and 3D printing expert who made a 3D printed hand for Richard Van As, a master carpenter from South Africa who lost four fingers on his right hand in an unfortunate work accident. The most functional solution (a biomechanical prosthesis) would have cost tens of thousands of dollars, and it was not a viable option.

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