3D printed exoskeleton lets stroke patients regain hand movement
Finger movement is the last thing that stroke patient manages to regain in their recover. There are endless cases where patients don’t even mange to regain movement in the fingers. 3D printing is the new buzz word in the manufacturing industry, and everyone from students to professionals have been 3D printing prosthetics (amid other things) to help stroke patients who have limited mobility in the hands. Latest to join the fray is Daniel Levy and his team from Lehigh University, who has developed 3D printed open-source exoskeleton called Spiderhand, which helps stroke patients with limited finger movement to regain mobility in the hands. Levy has uploaded necessary STL files on Thingiverse, in case you want to build one of these exoskeleton’s yourself.
Levy has been assisted in the project by Jeff Peisner, Elena Ramirez, Emily Macmillan and Nan He. Each of them has assisted in improvising upon the design. And finally now, a working prototype of the prosthetic is ready for trials. Levy, according to 3ders, was inspired to created this exoskeleton after meeting his friend’s brother who suffered spinal injury and is now unable to move the hand freely as any of us.
Explaining about where the resources for his innovation came from, Levy said,
I am part of a research team at Lehigh Universities Mountaintop Program.The program gives us the freedom and space to let us work on whatever we desire for 10 weeks with a $1,500 budget per person, with little to no supervision or regulations.
Spiderhand has been printed in parts with MakerBot Replicator 2 and Ultimaker 2 3D printers. It can be strapped onto the forearm and attached to the fingers. It then uses wearer’s motion of the tenodesis and wrist to move or curl fingers. The device allows patients to lift up and grab things that are otherwise not possible due to lack of strength in the fingers.
Levy, started off with understand how the wrist moves and simultaneously affects the finger tendon. He began modeling various concepts and designs before arriving at the actually design. Once the ideal design was finalized, the exoskeleton was created to be customizable to individual needs, comfortable to all patients, and convenient to wear.
Levy understands that two patients cannot be the same, their problem and size cannot be same; therefore, he ensured that the device is customizable to individual needs. For this Levy has used metal rods who’s length can be altered to adjust to the wearer’s size from the forearm to the fingers. Interestingly, the exoskeleton can be adjusted to make the grip wider or smaller and also be attuned for each finger, so that it is immensely comfortable for each user.
Levy visions to have the exoskeleton open-sourced to everyone, so that just about anyone in need can have access to the device. He also plans to have a website and email running to help people contact him to take away a custom designed Spiderhand.