In the past, prosthetic body parts have been expensive and difficult to produce, but with the advent of 3D printing technology and the rise of crowdfunding, technically skilled people around the world are creating and distributing 3D printed devices like the Robohand.
The team responsible for the Robohand have now unveiled a 3D printed leg prototype. A mere fraction of the cost associated with a traditional prosthetic device, it is aimed at giving thousands of amputees in the world the ability to walk again.
While it was a terrible accident in 2011 which led South African Richard van As to lose four fingers on his right hand, the accident brought the inventor to a moment of clarity and shone a beacon of hope to others facing the same loss. Research into the current state of prosthetic devices led to van As and Ivan Owen collaborating on the project which would become the Robohand.
While the prototype is still in the design and testing stage necessary to make it safe for humans to use, the RoboLeg is a great leap forward in bringing inexpensive mobility aids to amputees. The plastic connectors were 3D printed while the metal support rods and pneumatic pumps were made using traditional manufacturing methods.
"It will be sometime before we have a simple solution to measure and fit," said van As. "The leg will also undergo a few pneumatic press tests before anyone should use it."
While no price has been announced, the RoboLeg is sure to represent a substantial cost savings over existing prosthetic legs. As a point of comparison, a fully assembled and 3D printed Robohand costs somewhere around $500, while traditional prosthetics might cost tens of thousands of dollars.
To see the groundbreaking work being done by the team, or to contribute your own ideas, you can visit the Robohand page at Thingiverse or the project's Facebook page. The RoboLeg files are expected to eventually be released to the public.