Humanness – 3D Printing Prosthetic Hands

When asked to produce a research report following Monday’s lecture on Humanness I decided to remained focused on prosthesis. We watched a short video in the lecture of Paralympian Aimee Mullins who was giving a talk on her prosthetic limb and the idea that it is or is not the norm and the problems surrounding that.

Last week I watched a local news report on a British Inventor named Joel Gibbard who has invented a way of producing a functional prosthetic hand using a 3D printer. The idea of 3D printing has intrigued me ever since I first heard about it so I decided to conduct my research into this area. The hand is incredibly cheap to produce at just £600 compared to the £70,000 the NHS currently pays to produce one [1]. The price of the prosthetic straight away makes it a lot more accessible and it would be interesting to see that if the development of the 3D printed hand goes ahead and they are made available to the masses, will it make having a prosthetic limb less of a talking point.

In order to fund its development Joel has set up a website where people from around the world can make donations to his project [2]. It is interesting that the funding of the project has taken this form reminding me of websites like “Kickstarter” where donations help fund projects, if the public feel that the project is worth funding donations can surpass the million mark. This again in the case of the Open Hand Project can only help the hand reach the masses and help prosthesis become more of a norm in today’s world.

When delving deeper into the world of prosthesis I was shown the massive leaps that the technology has been making. For example one article talks about Scientists based in Chicago who are making progress on prosthetic limbs that can feel [3]. It made me wonder where progress will be in around twenty years and will somebody receiving a new limb be as simple as booking an appointment at your local hospital. With the speed and cost differences that 3D printing has given us I believe this may be something we could see in at least our lifetime.

Aimee Mullins talks about natural curiosity in her talk on TED entitled “My 12 Pairs of Legs” [4] she talks about visiting a children in a school. She talks about how children are trained to see her as disabled but then when she talks to them about which legs she could have fitted she describes herself as a “woman with potential that there bodies didn’t have yet” [4]. This is trying to remove prosthesis associations with the word “Disabled” and I believe that in the next decades the two words will become further and further apart.

Bibliography

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2458572/The-Dextrus-3D-printed-prosthetic-hand-Graduate-creates-600-robotic-limb-change-world.html#ixzz2iHnDiYJN

[2] http://www.openhandproject.org/about/

[3] http://blogs.voanews.com/science-world/2013/10/15/scientists-make-progress-on-artificial-limbs-that-can-feel/

[4] http://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullins_prosthetic_aesthetics.html

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