3D-printable robotic arm?
According to clinicians I spoke with, about half of [arm and hand] amputees don’t use anything — they can still walk and do 90% of their daily activities,” Kondo says. “Within the other half, studies indicate that more than 90% are just using cosmetic, not functional, prosthetics.
High cost is a major issue in the prosthetics industry, even for purely cosmetic items. The price rises exponentially when bringing sophisticated hardware into the mix, up to and exceeding JPY 1.5 million (RM45 538.22. He realized that the burgeoning 3D printer movement was the answer.
The “he” mentioned above is Genta Kondo, co-founder and CEO of Tokyo-based Exiii. There are now five generations of Exiii robotic prosthetics. During SXSW 2015, Akira Morikawa, who has lost an arm, contacted Exiii, wanting to give it a try. Morikawa’s response was really great, he told them it was exactly what he was waiting for. Up until then, people were skeptical. They talked to doctors, clinicians, and therapists — conservative types [when it comes to new tech] — and they thought the design wouldn’t satisfy the users on an emotional level.
“It’s not strictly a medical device, but more of a wearable item,” Kondo says. “The Apple Watch is a wearable, but our prosthetic arm is the ultimate wearable.””It’s not strictly a medical device, but more of a wearable item,” Kondo says. “The Apple Watch is a wearable, but our prosthetic arm is the ultimate wearable.”
But the latest version, HACKberry is lighter and more compact than the Coyote Morikawa used. It’s lighter, has better battery life and most importantly 3D-printable using consumer 3D printers like a MakerBot. The entire 3D-printable robotic arm can be assembled at home using roughly US$300 worth of parts.
Both models connect the prosthetic to the user via a photo-reflective sensor that attaches to the residual muscle at the end of their arm. It converts muscle contractions to finger and thumb movements, which can be configured for different situations via Exiii’s companion smartphone app. Activating the index finger only, for example, allows a user to point. Activating all four fingers and the thumb is used for handshakes or holding objects.
Crowdfunded, Exiii went the open-source way for the prosthetic hand to be accessible for those in need. Kondo invites makes from around the world to further improve on it, as they have a small team and open source allows everyone to pitch in and contribute to making this a better prosthetic for all.
Pokdepinion: This is refreshing. In our daily pursuit for materialism sometimes we forget about the less fortunate. I am glad I found this to restore my faith in humanity. I hope more people come up with interesting ideas like this to improve the quality of life for those who were born without or lost a limb/limbs. This feels so sci-fi to me, with all the bionic people going around later.