The application of 3D printing to medical problems is being more and more relevant as 3D engineering becomes more popularized. South African woodworker, Richard Van As, was finding a solution to his everyday difficulties after losing his fingers in an accident. After years of searching, this woodworker along with prop designer, Ivan Owen, came up with a solution for fingerless individuals to gain new dexterity for a fraction of the cost of a prosthetic hand through utilizing 3D printing.
Van As and Owen came up with the Robohand, a $150 alternative to the usual prosthetics which can cost up to $10,000 per finger. This invention allows the user to restore hand functionality to those with diseases like amniotic band syndrome, which causes children to be born without fingers and toes.
Soon after the successful prototype, Van As posted his story about the Robohand and he rapidly got feedback and requests for the product from others who had suffered the same accidents and parents of children born without fingers. Liam was one of those children; his parents could not afford a prosthetic hand as he would outgrow it quickly anyways, 3D printing was the perfect solution. The child received his Robohand in January and has since embraced the benefits of the product.
High-tech prosthetic designs are available on the market for costs up to $60,000 but the Robohand only costs approximately $150 to make. Since Liam received his Robohand, the duo has been giving the design for the product for free on Thingiverse.
"It’s not something we plan to market," says Van As, who uses an adult version of the hand. "If you want one, we’ll help you. There’s lots of people out there that have got 3D printing experience and there’s lots of people who have got 3D printers. That’s something that’s certainly taken over."