One of the things that makes the world of 3D printing so wild and wonderful is that it isn’t a closed group of people whose job it is to run machines, but rather open to anyone and everyone with the interest and an idea. It’s almost as if everybody has a mild mannered identity during the day, but at night becomes ‘secret super printing person’ (or something slightly catchier). This latest invention comes from Australian Alex Czech who by day works in investor relations, but in his free hours designed and built a wearable exoskeleton for his hand!
Okay, so it’s not ready for its own Saturday morning cartoon just yet, but Czech does have dreams of expanding his design to create an entire bodysuit. At that point, he would have to come up with his own theme music.
Czech began as so many 3D makers do, by tinkering with a relatively small idea. He was working on designing his own universal joint. Thinking about joints naturally leads to thinking about fingers and voilà the idea of creating a cool looking and fully functional exoskeleton for his hand was born. It does look like something right out of the movies, especially when the ‘finger’ nail attachments are added – Wolverine might have been able to have had a significantly less invasive surgery performed had 3D printing been a part of the world of the X-Men. Czech isn’t ready to walk away from tinkering with his creation:
“I might attach DC motors to the fingers to make a miniature power drill on the finger tips. Ideally, I would attach DC motors to the joints so that it could be used as a powered exoskelelton…but that is down the track.”
So many people around the world are working on so many ideas at once that it is often impossible for any one person to know how many others have hit upon the same idea. Czech admits that he wasn’t aware of the other efforts to create an exoskeleton for the hand but he wasn’t driven by competition with others, rather by the enjoyment of exploring a fascinating idea. As we have seen with many inventions, sometimes it appears that the time is just ripe for its introduction and it will appear independently in many locations at once (for example, the idea of stereolithographic printing, which was developed by two inventors within weeks of each other).
“I had the idea to create it because no one else had yet designed one that you could 3D print. At the moment it is more just for looks, but I have been thinking of attaching motors to the fingers so that it could be used as a multipurpose glove.”
The hand is designed to be printed in ABS plastic and Czech has released a very detailed, step-by-step set of directions for its printing and assembly, complete with the warning that variation in material could “lead to serious frustration.”
It becomes clear from watching his video, however, that printing it correctly can lead to serious awesomeness. It consists of 13 unique parts with some requiring multiple prints and the only non-3D printed parts are the screws that hold it together and a couple of metal washers. While it took him 18 hours to print on his Up Plus 2 3D printer, the total material cost was an affordable $8.16 and the final hand weighs 173 grams.
This isn’t the first cool production this evening and weekends 3D print warrior has come up with. In March, he uploaded a video of 3D printed chainmail (which he subjected to a knife test) and what may possibly be the first heavy-duty tactical assault apple protection system. Other creations include clips, a robot spider, and a helmet.
Let us know your thoughts on Czech’s creations in the 3D Printed Exoskeleton Hand forum thread over at 3DPB.com.