3D printing technology creates robotic hands for kids

U.K. resident Charlotte Nott lost her limbs to bacterial meningitis at a young age. The 6-year-old now has a collection of artificial legs and prosthetic hands, and despite her disability, her dexterity and drawing skills are impressive.

"Some people are surprised when they see how mobile she is," Charlotte's mother Jenny Daniels said.

But as she grows, she'll need a variety of different sized hands, which can be quite pricey.

"An adult bionic hand was $40,000 for one hand," Daniels said.

That's nearly $63,000 USD, an amount that many families can't afford. But new 3D scanning and printing technology, being used by U.K.-based Open Bionics, can create custom-built robotic hands at a much lower price.

"At the moment, children are a bit underserved by the prosthetics industry, in the realms of robotic hands. So this project can really help them, because as a child grows they need to have a new prosthetic every year ideally," said Joel Gibbard with Open Bionics.

At a target price of $1,800, the robotic hands are attainable for families with an average income.

Here's how it works: A 3D scan is made using a tablet computer and then a 3D printer constructs it piece by piece. In what's claimed to be a world first, the two techniques have been combined to custom-build robotic hands.

It's still at the prototype stage, but this new advance means, for kids like Charlotte, a working hand might not be too far away.

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