South African boy, 5, gets mechanical 3D-printed ‘robohand’ hand

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

Five-year-old Liam was born with ambiotic band syndrome: he doesn't have any fingers on his right hand.

Thanks to his mother and the kindness of strangers in South Africa and Washington, the young South African boy has a brand-new 3D-printed "Robohand," an affordable prosthetic that is working like a charm.

Watch Liam use his new fingers just three days after being fitted with the contraption below:

"Just 3 days after receiving his finished Robohand…Liam is off and learning to use it like a champion! A little guy who couldn’t grasp anything with his right hand can now even pick up an object as small and difficult as a coin!! Imagine how many other little folks are out there who could benefit from this technology!" the Robohand creators wrote.

Richard Van As, a carpenter in South Africa, lost the fingers on his right hand in a work accident. In 2011, he contacted Ivan Owen, a prop-maker in Washington, after he saw Owen demonstrate a claw prop he created in a YouTube video.

The two men, 10,000 miles apart, started collaborating on a prosthetic finger for Van As. The long-distance friends shipped parts back and forth as they developed the moving finger.

Liam's mother learned of their project on Van As' blog, Coming Up Short Handed, and asked the pair if they could help her son.

They said yes.

"Last November, they decided to join up in Johannesburg to work together in person on a new project: A hand for Liam, a 5-year-old South African boy born without fingers on his right hand," NBC reported.

The pair created a custom Robohand, printed on a Makerbot for a fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics.

"No electronics, no sensors, nothing," Owen told NBC of the simple cable-and-bungee design. "That means it's easier to maintain and costs less."

The design is open source and in the public domain, with the downloadable printing pattern available on Thingiverse.

"It can be adjusted and assembled easily, parts can be replaced if they break, and best of all, anyone with a 3-D printer and some basic off-the-shelf parts can make one," NBC reported.

And the design isn't just limited to fit a child's arm:

"Using Makerware, it could be scaled to fit a wide range of individuals. The only thing that would need to be changed is the size of the bolts purchased from a hardware store. The design is open source and in the public domain. We encourage anyone who can make use of this design for any purpose to do so," Van As and Owen wrote.