Giving Ei Chi the Hand She Needs Through 3D Printing

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Bob_A3 (1)Most people have a hand that they heavily favor. For about ninety percent of the world, the right hand is dominant. It can sometimes seem that the weaker hand is hardly useful at all since the dominant one is used for such highly important tasks as writing, throwing, cooking, and even just gesturing.

Malaysian artist and motion graphic designer Ei Chi has demonstrated just how much can be accomplished when you only have the one dominant hand upon which to rely. However, she has also confronted the very real disadvantages.

Chi was born without a left hand as a result of a condition known as phocomelia. Being born with only one hand meant that Chi had to learn a lot of different methods for achieving the same results as other children who had both hands. Growing up, she learned how to tie her shoes, paint her nails, and put on her own watch, among other things, all with one hand. As she has been so successful compensating for the missing hand, it is hard to imagine that she would ever feel any need for a prosthetic. That’s what she thought too, until a stress injury forced her to keep her right hand immobile for a week.

Ei Chi Tay 5“I managed to come this far, having just one hand and I really took this right hand for granted because everything I do seems to be okay…recently, I injured my wrist, so for one whole week, I couldn’t do a single thing,” said Chi. “That’s when I got depressed for having only just an arm. I also started to think of the possibilities, of the things that I could have achieved if only I had two hands.”

It was then that she came across David Drummond’s organization in New Zealand, called Give A Hand. Drummond, an engineer, inventor, and race car driver dedicates his time to the creation of high quality bionic hands. His mission is to “develop and open-source affordable bionic hand prostheses that can be easily reproduced with 3D printing and lost-cost computers such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino.”

In order for them to give a hand to Ei Chi, they need to get her to New Zealand and fit her for the bionic prosthetic which they have affectionately named Bob. Drummond estimates that the costs of this process would be approximately $20,000, putting it well out of the reach of most people; therefore, they are asking for donations that will allow them to give the hand to Chi free of charge.

20150928_103250To create these robotic hand prosthetics, Give A Hand uses a Makerbot Replicator printer. All told, it takes about 48 hours to print the complete hand, which has a wide range of functions in terms of movement of individual fingers and grasping motions. Ei Chi would be the first recipient of this robotic prosthesis. While she is quite independent and highly functioning, this prosthetic would expand the possibilities available to her both in her professional and her personal life. For example, the prosthetic would allow her to use heavier camera gear or to go rock climbing with friends. Drummond explained his vision for Give A Hand after the completion of this current fundraising campaign:

“After this campaign, Give A Hand is going to continue to work to provide free bionic limbs to people in need and we are always going to continue development of the technology and to put that out, open source, to make it available to everybody.”

Their fundraising drive, hosted through Givealittle, opened on the 15th of October and has currently raised nearly $1,600. They will be accepting donations through this platform until November 9th and should they exceed the financial needs of Chi’s case, they will use the additional funds to allow them to donate the next Bob to a future recipient.  Discuss this story here.

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