One of the up-and-coming technological advancements that we have seen, thanks to 3D printing, has been the huge influx of 3D printable prosthetic hands for children and adults in need. Traditionally, prosthetic hands have cost around $50,000, and typically are not available to children due to the fact that insurance companies refuse to pick up the tab on devices which a child will outgrow in less than two years. 3D printing allows for the creation and sharing of 3-dimensional design files, followed by the quick and very affordable fabrication of the designed object. The average 3D printed prosthetic hand costs under $50, and can be completely customized and fabricated in a single day.
Because the vast majority of these hands are made for children, we have seen several designers make some fun, creative designs targeted toward these youngsters. We’ve seen hands that light up, Wolverine hands, card-playing hands, and even commando style hands created for people of all ages and interests. All of these are 3D printed and made specifically to fit the person that they are printed for.
A little over a month ago, we heard about a 3D printed Iron Man prosthetic hand. It was printed in the colors of Iron Man and had a few additional features. With this said, a man named Pat Starace has taken the idea of creating an Iron Man themed prosthetic hand and made it, quite frankly, cooler than any prosthetic device that I have ever seen. Not only is Starace’s hand colored in the theme of Iron Man, but it actually incorporates much of the same technology and appearances that the superhero actually has on his hand.
“The hand is a container for all modern technology,” Starace tells 3DPrint.com. “It can incorporate microcontrollers, wireless devices, smart watches, sensors, accelerometers, NFC, RFID, and almost any technology. This hand is configured with an Arduino Microcontroller, Low Power Bluetooth, Lipo Battery, Lipo Charger, LED’s, and RGB LED’s. It can also be Voice Controlled.”
Like the hand of Iron Man, Starace’s prosthetic incorporates a working laser, and working thruster (OK maybe it doesn’t actually thrust, but it looks cool). It has the option for adding a gyro, magnetometer, and more, as mentioned by Starace above. The shield is another key characteristic of the hand, and it houses cool weapons like the laser, which can be fired along side red LED lights that light up when the hand is tilted down. The thrusters are activated when tilting the hand back, like seen in the many Iron Man movies. Also when this happens, a ring light of bright RGB LED’s begin cycling through animated patterns.
“I had a vision that a 3D printed hand could be both functional and fun,” Starace tells us. “My main goal is to help a child that is going through life with a disability, and facing everyday challenges in their lives, by making them the COOLEST KID in their school. I can only think this will make a great impact on a child during their early years by raising their self-esteem to Super Hero Levels.”
Unlike other prosthetic hands that we have seen created in the past, which utilized open source designs that are already out there, available for free, Starace designed his hand from the ground up. He started out by working from photographs that he found on the internet. He then started to model the hand in MAYA.
“I started modeling the palm and the fingers with polygons until I had the right shape. There’s a sort of organic mechanical shape to these parts, the goal was to replicate them as close as I could and retain the same look and feel. After I had the right shape in polygons it was time to import the model into Solidworks and start the mechanical design. Converting the polygons to a format that Solidworks could import, while still retaining the integrity of the model was going to be difficult. Knowing I’d be performing Solidworks procedure and features on the parts, it had to be done. I achieved this by creating an IGES Curve network on top my polygon model in MAYA.”
All in all, it took Starace over 48 total hours of print time to fabricate the many different parts of the hand, including several iterations of some parts. He printed the parts on his Deezemaker Bukobot in ABS plastic. Once printing was complete, he had to remove all of the support material (there was a lot!). “It was with great excitement to see the model assembled and perform EXACTLY as I had designed it,” he tells us. “I can only attribute this to the over 20+ years I have creating animatronics. I added the electronics, switches, lights, and this brings to to where we’re at now… looking for a child to empower with Super Hero Powers.”
Without a doubt, this is the most interesting, interactive, fun, and mesmerizing prosthetic hand that I have ever seen. Starace thinks that it has a lot of potential, not only for cheering up kids with missing hands, but also for teaching them how to program the microcontrollers that operate the cool features of their device.
While Starace didn’t use any of the e-NABLE designs for his hand, he has recently joined up with the volunteer 3D printing prosthetic organization, and will be cooperating with them to bring the best open source prosthetic hands to those in need. Starace currently makes himself available for all kinds of work.
What do you think about this incredibly feature rich prosthetic hand? Discuss in the 3D Printed Prosthetic Iron Man Hand forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video showing this hand in action below.