War veteran Colin MacDuff, 41, lost most of the middle finger on his right hand in a hunting accident in 2010 and has been working towards creating a usable 3D printed prosthetic finger.
Colin, who lives in Olympia, Washington, started creating a replacement finger out of old bicycle parts in his garage, including a rear derailleur hanger, to simulate a normal finger. The Gulf War Navy veteran put his computer aided design skills to good use after being told by doctors that no finger prosthetics were available.
‘My finger has three parts. The tip, the cage, which goes over my amputation and the ring part that sits where a normal ring would sit.’, Colin explained.
After being inspired by amputees at cycle racing events who used RockShox bike parts in their DIY prosthetic arms he decided that he could design and make his own. After previously being unable to perform simple tasks like buttoning his shirt and typing, his replacement digit has made many everyday life a lot easier.
Mr MacDuff has started to sell custom designed fingers for amputees as there was an obvious need for them, but had to have them manufactured using medical grade materials. 3D printing helps twofold, as the technology is ideally suited to making custom parts and he has found a manufacturer who can print using medical grade plastic.
It currently takes around 12 weeks for a custom mechanical finger to be made but this could be reduced to around a week in the near future. Due to the custom design work and the 3D printing of medical grade materials the fingers cost between $5,000 and $9,000 each.
3D printing is proving to be a very suitable technology for making custom prosthetics and there are several promising projects around the world, including Robohand and a thought controlled robotic arm, which could transform the lives of thousands.