No doubt, interest in 3D printing is growing, with reports of bioprinted blood vessels and the unveiling of MakerBot’s Replicator 2X 3D Printer at CES 2013. Now, a five year old boy from South Africa named Liam, who was born without fingers on his right hand, is able to attribute his new robotic hand to 3D printing technology. Thanks to two men and a campaign on the crowd funding site Fundly.com, Liam has become the first person to be fitted with robotic fingers.
The custom built robotic hand was created by Ivan Owen in Bellingham, Washington and Richard Van As in South Africa. The two met after Van As lost two fingers; unhappy with the prosthetic fingers available to him as well as their price tags upwards of $10,000 USD, Van As set out to create a robotic prosthesis with Owen’s help. Collaboration was done via the internet, allowing them to work together to build the robotic hand, custom fit for Liam, while in different countries.
When MakerBot heard about the campaign, it donated two Replicator 2 3D printers, allowing Owen and Van As to work on and create parts by sending one another CAD files. Liam is now able to pick up small objects, throw a ball, and is reportedly adapting to his new hand incredibly fast.
Owen and Van As are now raising money on Fundly to help bring robotic fingers and hands to those that might not be able to afford other prosthetic options. With breakthroughs like this, the possibilities of 3D printing seem endless, and companies like Staples are ready for an influx in 3D printing requests.