Quinn Norton over at Wired News has written an interesting article about the growing movement of open-source prosthetics. The community was started by Jonathan Kuniholm, an upper extremety amputee from Iraq, who was a biomedical engineering student at Duke prior to deployment.
From the article:
Founded last year, the nonprofit Open Prosthetics Project applies the ethical and intellectual property foundation of open-source software to the task of building better artificial limbs. The project releases its experimental designs to its website in the public domain, free for anyone to use, forever. Anyone can download the STL files, tinker with them in CAD software, and submit them to a rapid manufacturer, such as a prototyping 3-D printing company.
This lets anyone turn out a customized prosthetic device without incurring tens of thousands of dollars in production costs. A user with a few hundred dollars to spend can be holding the physical reality within a week, though the post processing would still require some expertise…
Open Prosthetics’ experimental design incorporates both modes in one hook, using a pin/spring/cam set-up controlled by the intensity of the wearer’s shrug: A limited shrug momentarily opens or closes the hook, just like the traditional design, while a full shrug acts as a toggle, reversing the hook from open to closed, or visa versa, and leaving it there until the next actuation.
They’ve built and rebuilt two versions of this positional hook, and they have a working prototype of the entire limb made from LEGO Technic parts. (This video demonstrates the strength difference of the two modes in picking up a small object.)