Lyman Connor, General Electric engineer, has created an affordable robotic hand, which demonstrates the functionality of the modern high-end electronic prostheses. He started working on the Bionic Hand Project in his own home three years ago and his goal was to create a complete solution, that would be much more affordable than similar high-end prostheses, which cost about $50,000 – $70,000. Connor has developed the Mano-matic prosthetic device, based on the open-source Robohand project (low-cost prosthetic solutions), that are developing with the assistance of the international engineers’ community.
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Scientists of Newcastle University and other UK-based universities are developing a new prosthetic hand, which will have a number of revolutionary features. For example, such as a natural sense of feedback and a realistic sense of touch. At the moment, even the most modern prostheses are not giving the user full freedom of hand movement. If a user does not look at his prosthetic hand, then he does not know its exact position and even the fingers are clenched or not. Therefore, the use of an artificial hand is uncomfortable and unnatural, and prosthesis movement is slow and clumsy.
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UCSB (UC Santa Barbara) researchers are studying models and patterns of vibration on the skin of hand to understand more deeply how we sense the actual reality through touching. The fact is that scientists don’t yet know for sure how the mechanism of touch sensation actually works. Therefore, they have created a device that senses texture when touching an object and captures patterns of vibration in the skin during touching. The device consists of very small vibration sensors and accelerometers, it clamps on the user’s hand and fingers. Different types of touch have distinctive vibration signatures and UCSB researchers have cataloged all of these distinctions.
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OpenΒionics is an open-source initiative and a nonprofit organization that has connected researchers from USA and Greece for the development of affordable modular prosthetic hands, that can be easily reproduced even at home by using a 3D printer, detailed instructions and inexpensive, but strong, flexible and durable plastic materials. The OpenBionics design very functional and light-weight robotic prosthetic hands, which costs between $100 and $200. Personally, I think their initiative really excellent and really appreciate what they are doing!
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There is no doubt that 3D printing is the future of prosthetics. The good news is that even big companies have joined the process of creating new affordable prosthetic solutions for people with disabilities. For example, Intel and 3D Systems have designed an affordable prosthetic hand special for Daniel Hobbs, 11-year-old boy, who was born without hand because of a congenital malformation of his left arm. As already mentioned, high-end prosthetics cost thousands of dollars and need to be often replaced as the child grows. And that’s why 3D printing would offer an affordable alternative for children with disabilities.
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