Prosthetic limbs traditionally cost many thousands of dollars, doubling the pain of people who have already suffered enough. But several projects are showing how it's possible to produce artificial arms and legs for less.
A while ago, we wrote about a couple of guys who got together over the Internet to build themselves a bionic hand from Meccano and an Erector Set. It wasn't pretty—but it was effective, and the two have since gone on to set up their company. Then, there was Pinchy—an arm made by two seniors at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Now comes another project, this time from Alabama. Zero Point Frontiers, an engineering company in Huntsville, has built a simple plastic hand, using nothing more than a MakerBot 3D printer. A two-year-old named Kate Berkholtz, who was born without fingers because of a congenital abnormality, is using the device. According to WAFF, a local TV station, the hand costs only $5, and can be made in a single day—meaning it can easily be replaced, if need be, or adjusted as Kate gets older:
It's that price tag that has the interest of parents of kids who need prosthetics. Depending on the type, you're looking at between $25,000-$50,000 for a prosthetic. The problem is, most insurance companies won't pay for a child's prosthetic. They just grow out of them too fast. At such a cheap cost, this might be the solution that families have been looking for, including Kate's.
Zero Point says it's planning a Kickstarter campaign to further develop the device, which is made of plastic pieces, screws, and bungee cords. Check out the slide show above to see what it has come up with so far.
The trend doesn't end there. A 17-year-old named Easton LaChappelle created a 3-D arm in his bedroom—an invention he recently showed off to President Obama. And this guy from the U.K. has created the "Dextrus hand." It costs less than $1,000.
None of these products yet approach professional grade, but they all show a lot of promise. There's no reason to think that prosthetics shouldn't be a lot cheaper in the future—good news for anyone who can't afford today's technology