The best toy feels like it gives you something more than it is.
It might be the most heart-warming application of 3D printing technology yet: prosthetics that make disabled children feel like their favorite super heroes. That’s what Pat Starace, an animator and mechanical designer, hopes to do with his Iron Man-inspired prosthetic hand design.
Starace’s vision is pretty simple: create a prosthetic hand that solves a mechanical problem and boosts a child’s self esteem to superheroic (but maybe not Tony Stark-ian) levels. “And mostly,” he says, it “looks awesome!” Awesome is sort of the key word behind his design. He wants it to look awesome, perform awesomely, and most of all, hide all the strings that make it awesome so that a child really feels like a hero or heroine.
The prosthesis is 3D-printed, which keeps the cost down for families who might want the device. It clips open at the wrist to fit over a child’s arm, and the attached rechargeable electronics unit powers its many functions. The prosthesis is essentially a casing that can house anything the user might want. It can hold micro-controllers, a variety of wireless devices, smart watches, sensors, accelerometers, NFC technology…everything a geeky kid might need literally on hand all the time.
Functionally, the Iron Man hand is simple too. Moving the wrist activates the fingers. Tilting the wrist down closes the hand—tension cables activating the fingers are hidden—and flexing the wrist up opens the fingers.
But really, it’s the visual impact that is, to borrow Starace’s favorite term, awesome. The prosthetic hand has voice controls that activate some Avenger-appropriate gadgets, like a laser hidden in the top of the hand. And, of course, the thruster in the palms which Iron Man uses to fly. In the prosthesis, those are voice-activated (read: Jarvis activated) LED lights.
Right now, Starace has a prototype that isn’t quite ready for real world applications. But in the short term, he wants to give the prototype to a child for free and find a partnership to bring the device to wider markets.
Soon we might have little super heroes running around all over the world.
Featured image via Starace/You Tube