A 3D-printed prosthetic hand, known as Robohand, allowed a 5-year old boy from South Africa, find hope in his future. Liam Dippenaar was born without any fingers on his right hand because of amniotic band syndrome.
Amniotic band syndrome (ABS) is a congenital condition that occurs when a developing baby inside the womb gets entangled with amniotic bands. These string-like bands disrupt blood flow and affect the development of the baby. ABS causes babies to be born without any fingers among a host of other deformities.
Robohand was developed by Richard van As who lost his four fingers during a woodworking accident. The carpenter from South Africa decided to make his right hand functional again. After being turned down by some people and observing the exhorbitant price of prosthetics, he studied the concept of prosthesis online and started with parts from the hardware store and later on experimented with 3D printers.
As was able to get hold of a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer and worked with Ivan Owen, a mechanical props designer from the United States., to create his 3D-printed fingers he called Robohand.
After several prototypes and constant e-mails file exchanges between two continents, the tandem of van As and Owen was able to come up with the Robohand.
"Originally it wasn't a consideration to help other people. It was all just about me at that stage, then as we went along and so one prototype became another one and so on and so forth. I saw that this could help many other people," van As said on a promo video for Robohand.
In November 2012, Liam's mother contacted van As after seeing the Facebook page of Robohand. She asked for his help so Liam can use his right hand just like how other kids. From having a Robofinger, the concept of Robohand was born.
The Robohand is attached to the wrist and the forearm and controlled by the movement of the wrist using a series of cables. Flexing the wrist makes the prosthetic fingers closed and extending it makes opens fingers.
All of the parts of the Robohand including the wrist hinges, knuckle block, and digits are 3-D printed using the Makerbot. The parts are put together using cables and some stainless steel bolts.
Liam can now pick up stuff and throw a ball using his right hand. The word got around and now four kids in South Africa have benefited using the 3D-printed Robohand.
The Robohand files were made available by its makers online so people across the world who need it or want to help ABS patients can use it. Owen and van As also launched a fund drive through Indiegogo so they can help more people with the Robofinger and the Robohand.
"It was something I never thought of that, you know, a person can do and to see him the first time grasp something and have it in his right hand. It was amazing," exclaimed Yolandi Dippenaar, mother of Liam.
Watch the video below and see how the Robohand and the kind hearts of strangers gave Liam his smile back: