Printing Prosthetics: The creation of 3-D digits

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05/15/13
In the Magazine
Makerbot

Is there nothing that can’t be made on a 3-D printer? In the United States, a self-proclaimed anarchist got a lot of attention recently for cranking out a single-shot plastic pistol. In Britain, there was a much more revolutionary development: 3-D printing with stem cells that may one day grow organs. But sometimes it’s just the imaginations of regular people working together to do good that are amazing. When South African woodworker Richard Van As cut off four of his fingers, he was able to collaborate with American designer Ivan Owen 10,000 miles away to fabricate new functional digits. Sketches were exchanged instantly over the Internet, and prototypes were produced almost as quickly on desktop 3-D printers. Publicity about that success attracted the interest of parents whose children were born without fingers because of a condition called amniotic band syndrome. So Van As used the printer once again to create a whole hand that opened and closed with the motion of the wrist. In the true spirit of the Web, Van As has posted all the information needed to produce the Robohand so that anybody can do it. Truly this is a development in 3-D printing to have and to hold.

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