Our Kickstarter campaign is to develop a humanoid robotic hand and arm that is of far lower cost than any other available. We believe that this will open up robotics to a far wider market of makers and researchers than has ever been possible. This should then trigger an explosion of creativity in the areas of robotics, telepresence and ultimately prosthetics.
Project background can be found at the Anthromod website.
Photos of the printed prototype
How you will help
With your Kickstarter pledges we can take the prototype design and optimise it. Once the campaign is over and the rewards delivered, we can move on to making the design more functional, and add more methods of control. The wider community will then have a standard for robot hand design. I am sure the community can come up with uses that Easton and I could never have imagined before.
By pledging even a little you can receive part of the arm that will be functional. You will even get models of the finger joints, so that you can make compatible fingers. This means that you can start experimenting for low cost, before you move on to the bigger and better models. You never know, someday improvements that you make can be helping someone have a better life.
Features of the arm
Current features of the prototype
·The arm and hand have 6 degrees of freedom that can be actuated (1 thumb, 4 fingers and 1 wrist). The thumb has another degree of freedom that can be set manually.
·The arm uses a tendon system, with the movement being provided by 5 Hobby Servos. 5 being the current number that can fit into the forearm.
·Small elastic bands allow the joints to open and close smoothly.
·Easy assembly and repair. All parts can be removed and fixed, should the need arise.
·Off the shelf electronics. The arm uses arduinos and commercial servo drivers.
·Free software. The software to control the hand will be posted online. This will allow control via PC, as well as other inputs (eg control glove, EEG etc.). The source code will be open so that you can create your own control systems.
·Joint Models. We will upload models that will allow you to make compatible fingers. This allows a great level of customisation, where you can design and print your own fingers and have them work with the hand.
Steps toward a better hand
We have several improvements in mind, before we can make a full blown prosthesis. If funding is successful we hope to add several of them as stretch goals.
·Optimise electronics. Off the shelf hardware is more expensive in the long run than custom built circuits, which can also be smaller and power efficient.
·Proprioception. Allowing the hand to know what position it is in. Currently only servo position is known. Proprioception could be achieved by strain or Hall effect sensors.
·Sensors. Pressure sensors, temperature sensors or even microphones could be added to give the hand a sense of touch.
·Compliance. Controllable elastic elements in the tendons, allow the hand to flexibly react to the environment.
·Materials. We currently use ABS plastic, but Nylon is a possibility as it can be lighter and stronger. Various grades of Nylon are also biocompatible, which is a big step towards a prosthesis.
·Degrees of freedom. Increasing movement of the thumb and fingers to be more lifelike. The biggest obstacle to this is the control complexity.
·Bearings. Multiple small bearings rapidly increase cost, but reduce wear and tear in the parts.
·Control glove. Our current glove is based on a Nintendo power glove, but future versions will be custom built from the ground up. They will measure many more degrees of freedom of the hand and provide greater control. Sensors from the hand could also provide feedback via the glove.
For clarity, Chris is based in Manchester (England), whilst Easton is based in Colorado (United States).
There is quite a story behind this. It all started when I was 14 and I had an idea for a robotic hand controlled wirelessly by a glove. At the time I didn't know anything about electronics or code so I started learning what I could on my own. I started building a physical model and sewing flex sensors onto a glove. The result was far better then I had in mind and it seemed like people liked it:
I didn't stop there. I wanted to make something more realistic and something that could actually function. At the time I heard about 3d printers and looking into them more and was determined to get my hands on one. I designed a 3d model of a robotic hand and ended up making the whole arm up to the shoulder. I qualified for the international science fair in Pittsburgh, PA where I placed 2nd in the world in engineering. I never imagined being a small town kid making something that people cared about that much.
When I was at state science fair showing the arm to the public this 8 year old girl came up and was in awe of the arm. I noticed she had a prosthetic arm that was from the elbow to the fingertip and had one motion, open and close. I started talking to her parents and they were talking about the cost of the prosthesis. They said it was around $80,000 and because she is still growing that they will have to buy a few more in the future. To me this was the ah-hah moment. I knew I could easily adapt the arm for a human and make it function if not better then the ones on the market. To me this is my end all goal and this is why I need your support to find the very best materials, design, control system and making it the most reliable prosthesis the common public can own.
I am already pretty far in development of the control system and some future design for the actual prosthetic. I am using EEG and ECG as the primary control system which combined is accurate and able to control with ease. Now you might be thinking that yeah this is a good idea (hopefully) but it's a long shot. I am very focused on what I do and only do the best. I have been featured in two national magazine for the prototypes:
I also do a lot of talks to the public and to the youth. I love inspiring others to learn on your own and to make their dreams a reality. The other half to this is my partner Chris.
My name is Chris Chappell. After studying at University I found myself trying to work out what to do with my life. I knew that you were only young once, so you had to go for your dream, or else time would slip away.
I was fascinated by 3D Printing and could see how opening it up to the masses was transformative. For 20 years expensive machines sat in corporate basements, and only a few even knew they existed, but then came RepRap. Suddenly anyone with a few hundred to $2000 could have a 3d printer. 7 years later, dozens of companies, thousands of makers, and anyone who’s watched the news over the last couple of years has heard of 3D printing.
I looked around to see what else could be done. Now I was always interested in building prosthetics, but they were very expensive. So how to lower the cost? Well 3D printing was obviously the way to go. Building prosthetics involved legal hurdles that I didn't have the resources to overcome. There were makers though. Roboticists, researchers, telepresense system developers as well. All people who would love to work in this area but aren't likely to spend the tens of thousands demanded by the few companies that made robot hands. Now expensive machines that are priced out of the range of the many people interested in using them, where does that sound familiar?
I had seen Easton's arm in an article over a year ago and had complimented him on his work. He said he liked my work and for a while that was it. A few months ago Easton got back in touch with me, mentioning an opportunity. In the course of our conversation we realized that our skill-sets complimented each other perfectly. Together we could accomplish the design, testing, and control that would take months and years to achieve otherwise.
Together we developed the prototype that you can see in pictures and videos on this page.
Some articles about my work
Our plan is Chris to act as lead designer, whilst Easton prints, assembles the parts and programs the electronics. So far Easton has 2 printrbots, but if demand increases, more printers can be brought by either Easton or Chris to make up demand. As we both have experience in manufacturing these arms, as well as assembling electronics, if either of us has delays, the other can make up for it.
Our current plan is for shipping and assembly to all happen from within the United States. The Kickstarter is in pounds because of the age issue on Easton's end. There will be no extra international shipping cost because of this.
Risks and challenges
The first point to make is that several prototypes have been made and the kickstarter will allow us to further improve the design. We have experience with all the technologies required to build the hands, and all their quirky failure modes, as well as fixing them afterwards!
Both members of this project have experience with the manufacturing steps required, so if either of us couldn't play our role, then the other could take over.
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