Carpenter's Injury Leads To Hundreds Of 3-D-Printed Hands

Richard van As lost all fingers on his right hand in a woodworking accident. Now, he's used the incident to create a prosthetic to help hundreds.

Carpenter's Injury Leads To Hundreds Of 3-D-Printed Hands

South African carpenter Richard van As has turned a tragic accident into a life-changing idea for people who need prosthetic arms and hands.

As one of the founders of Robohand, he's provided hundreds of low-cost 3-D-printed prostheses that also give back lost functionality. CNN also notes it's led to plenty of touching stories like this:

"He was born a little different from his friends."

"So you just have the thumb?"

"His mom discovered Robohand, a mechanical hand you can print from home." (Via CNN)

However, its creator's story is equally inspiring. Van As still works as a carpenter in South Africa.

However, in May 2011 a woodworking accident severed all the fingers on his right hand. Straight out of the hospital, van As struggled to navigate the prosthetics market, which was expensive and lacking innovation. (Via MakerBot)

​In an interview for 3-D-printing company MakerBot, he explained:​ "I started investigating all the prosthetics online and saw that none were trade friendly and none of them are functional as to return your functionality as a tradesman. … I decided right there in the hospital that I was going to make my own." (Via YouTube / MakerBot)

Van As teamed up with Ivan Owen, a mechanical artist out of Washington state, after a chance encounter with one of Owen's online videos, and together the two developed the first prototype for Robohand in January 2013.

That prototype is now a completely open-source kit anyone can download and make with a 3-D printer. The files have been downloaded more than 143,000 times. KCTV reports the mechanical hand works at the wrist, so when the wearer curls his or her wrist, the fingers curl with it. (Via Robohand)

The carpenter embraces 3-D printing because it allows Robohand to be tweaked for cheap — providing a custom fit for each user.  A full adult hand costs as little as $2,000 to produce. It can be printed in five-and-a-half hours, but it takes about 10-15 hours to assemble.

After assembly, it only takes five minutes for the wearer to become adjusted and use the mechanical hand freely. With its popularity skyrocketing, there is now an eight-month waiting list for orders.

On Facebook, van As posts about his journeys to deliver Robohands around the world. Recently, he was in Syria to fit hands and arms on amputees during the country's ongoing civil war.