The idea of using 3D printers to create prosthetic hands is not new. Using a 3D printer a prosthetic hand can be created for $50 which is pennies compared to the cost of a traditional prosthetic hand. However, these devices are only designed for people with missing hands or missing fingers. This led a student at Rochester Institute of Technology to create the Airy Arm.
The Airy Arm is designed for those who have their hands but do not have function in them. It is a sort of exoskeleton that goes around the outside of the arm and hand. By using movements of the elbow the exoskeleton is able to assist a hand that cannot move on its own to perform basic functions. The design uses no electricity and is very simple to use. In fact the design was created to help a child who suffered from paralysis of the wrist and hand. When the elbow bends a hinge pulls on cables attached to the fingers and forces the hand to close. When the elbow is straightened the strings on the outside of the fingers are pulled, causing the hand to open back up.
To create the Airy Arm the design is first printed flat using polylactic acid. The plastic mold is then dipped in hot water and molded around the person’s arm. This allows the arm to be perfectly molded to the individual so that it is comfortable enough for long term use. The device is currently just a prototype but already there has been plenty of positive response and interest. The hope is that it can be used for a wide range of individuals from paralysis and stroke victims to those suffering from arthritis.
Main Image Credit: 3dprint.com