On Instructables a man named Ali Lemus applied his DIY and 3D printing know-how to creating an affordable prosthetic hand and then shared his process and downloadable .stl files at no cost, a gesture that is pretty directly symbolic of the device itself. He calls the prosthesis the “Galileo Hand,” probably in homage to one of the most influential figures of the Italian Renaissance. It’s very likely no coincidence that Lemus thought of Galileo Galilei, the brilliant astronomer who was at the forefront of that era of technological innovation, when he applied himself to this task, taking advantage of one of this era’s most impressive technological stars — 3D printing.
Lemus, who describes himself as “a musician, professor, hobbyist, and lover of life,” recognized a need for a low-cost prosthetic device, a goal that is more attainable than ever now thanks to 3D printing. He designed the prosthetic hand to “conform to conventional mechanical prostheses” but improved on the latter in a significant way: He added a locking mechanism in the thumb, which permits rotation to place it in three different kinds of grips — a two-digit pinching action, a three-digit tweezing action, and a lateral pinching action.
You can 3D print the pieces yourself or use an online 3D printing service like Shapeways or Pinshape, as Lemus has posted the 20 required .stl files on Thingiverse. If you do print them yourself, Lemus indicates that you can use either ABS or PLA filament. However, during assembly, when some of the pieces are joined, you may need to gently melt the filament to bond the parts firmly. In light of that, you should consider which material you are more comfortable working with in that respect.
The materials required for this project, in addition to filament, are as follows:
- 1 ballpoint spring (you surely have a few empties lying around!)
- 1 rivet
- Elastic cord
- 1 mm nylon, non-elastic cord
- Super Glue (or similar product)
- Lighter (optional)
- Bicycle brake iron wire (optional)
Lemus ’s instructions, which have been translated from the original Spanish, are a little bit confusing, but he provides extremely helpful videos that demonstrate the more complicated aspects of assembling the Galileo Hand — adjusting the mechanism that opens and closes the hand and installing the rotating thumb. He also welcomes input if the instructions have been mistranslated or could otherwise be clarified for ease of understanding.
While the Galileo Hand isn’t a match for some of the high-tech robotic prosthetic devices, it does provide people with more modest financial resources with a life-enhancing option, which was surely Lemus’s objective. His Galileo Hand joins a growing number of 3D printed prostheses created and shared in the generous spirit of the 3D printing and making movements.
Below is a series of videos covering the full scope of creating the Galileo Hand, including patient testing. Check them out and let us know what you think about Lemus’s design in the 3D Printed Galileo Hand forum thread over at 3DPB.com.