Nu Hand - The innovative 3D printed hand
Biomechanical Robotics Group was founded with the vision of creating lower cost and highly functional prostheses.
Update 3 Video:
Introducing the Nu Hand:
Biomechanical Robotics Group was founded with the vision of creating lower cost and highly functional prosthetic solutions for a large community of users. We have developed the Nu Hand 3D printed hand prototype as a first step in fulfilling our vision. The Nu Hand is designed to address key needs and concerns in the amputee community and beyond with regard to practical, functional, affordable, and aesthetically pleasing prosthetic solutions.
Why are we doing this?
This project is a culmination of my desire to use my engineering skills and biomedical education to benefit the world at large. I have known amputees personally, which has given me a glimpse into the challenges they face. I conceived of the Nu Hand as a way to make an immediate impact for the millions of people in the growing amputee community (a population expected to nearly double by 2050 in the U.S. alone due to longer life spans, vascular diseases such as diabetes, etc).
In pursuit of this vision, I founded the Biomechanical Robotics Group around a team of individuals that share this same mindset of innovation in the emergent market of 3D printed prostheses.
BRG Founder and CEO
Currently, hand/arm prostheses suffer an imbalance between these areas:
Functionality - Affordability - Aesthetics
Functionality: There are robotic prostheses that are highly functional but are restricted in terms of affordability and appearance.
Affordability: 3D - printed prostheses can range from DIY ~$50 - $500 (or more), but tend to be lacking in functionality and appearance. Traditional hand prostheses can cost $10,000 to $50,000 or more.
Aesthetics: There are purely cosmetic prosthesis that provide no functionality and are still relatively expensive (~$10,000).
How is this unique?
Our company aims to address these imbalances by creating a product that is functional for a broad range of real-world tasks (activities of daily living), more life-like in appearance, and affordable.
Functionality: We have taken the lessons learned from 1st generation 3D printed prostheses and are working on improving the replication of human anatomical motion.
Affordability: We have taken the approach that 3D printing allows for cost-effective maintenance and of replacement of worn or, in the unique case of children, out-grown parts. Our company philosophy is to provide affordability for the life of our product.
Aesthetics: Using proprietary algorithms developed in house, we can closely match a client's hand/finger size quickly and easily without using expensive 3D scans. We have also designed a hand that closely mimics a more natural range of motion than many competing solutions.
In addition, we have also thought about individuals who may not have hand size information available. Anthropometry is a field that measures proportions of the human body. Using anthropometric data points (available through the CDC) we will be able to estimate hand dimensions (hand length, finger length, hand span, etc) by their frame size, height, and weight.
What is the Nu Hand?
The Nu Hand is an advanced 3D printed prosthetic hand prototype that we are working on and would like Kickstarter backing to develop further. The Nu Hand design more closely mimics natural movement, has replaceable components, will have rigorous engineering tests performed on it (durability and failure tests) and can be size matched to anyone.
A reality shared by all prosthetic devices is that with the wear and tear of normal use, they will eventually fail. With that in mind, a key feature of the Nu Hand solution is a completely modular chassis. The modular chassis design means that users with access to a basic set of tools will be able to easily replace components as needed without the wait times often faced with traditional prosthetic repairs.
How does it work?
The Nu Hand is designed to mimic the complex mechanisms found in human hands with simple solutions to deliver practical mobility and functionality. Muscles that pull (never push) drive human hand motion naturally. We demonstrated the Nu Hand solution in the introduction video (see above); creating a closed fist by pulling the clear 'tendons'. The Nu Hand will have elastic bands on the backs of the fingers allowing them to return to their original relaxed position after the 'tendons' release. This provides stability to the joint while closing (in real life, there are many bundles of muscles and tissue supporting each finger and joints).
We have allowed the fingers to have side-to-side (lateral) movement. This provides a means for a user to splay their fingers naturally for additional support or personal expression the way a human hand can naturally. A servo motor will be used to move each individual finger laterally (we hope to demonstrate this feature in an update to backers soon after project funding is complete).
Concurrently, we are in the process of developing a drive system with the goal of closing individual fingers with one motor. This is a unique approach as it would be much easier to drive the hand with five motors (something we plan to do during the next stage development). However, we feel that the benefit of using fewer motors will allow the Nu Hand to have longer battery life and be lighter weight.
The Nu Hand will be using muscle sensors that are available on the market to drive motion. Muscle sensors are well established and are able to provide signals to a micro-controller to tell a finger to move. However, we understand that some individuals may not have a strong enough muscle signal to initiate finger movement. Taking that into consideration we have plans to explore and develop alternative ways to control the Nu Hand that are not limited to muscle sensors.
The goal of this Kickstarter project is to finish the Nu Hand prototype that will open the door to new possibilities in the market. With your help, we hope to be able to achieve our goal on this project. Thank you for your time and attention! We will continue to update you on our research and development progress.
We hope to keep you updated on the progress of our research and development through various social media outlets.
Here is a quick look at the rewards.
Risks and challenges
Drive System Design - We do not anticipate any delays in developing and designing various electronic components, however we do understand the challenge of creating a drive system that runs off a single motor. We have already been investigating novel ways to create this part. We will continue to research and develop other methods to test our prototype until we complete the drive system.
Mechanical Testing - We have experience testing various materials to failure. We will be performing extensive tests to determine the upper limits and the minimum requirements to create a functional hand suitable for regular use. If there are any red flags or problems to address in terms of quality, we will rigorously examine solutions. Our goal is to produce a quality product that is durable. We have already designed testing apparatuses to perform these mechanical tests, and we may have to develop more tests to ensure quality. If additional tests are required, we will have to develop or purchase additional testing apparatuses as well.
Post Processing - We want to develop a refined prototype that is aesthetically pleasing and marketable to a wide audience. We have a process to finish the 3D printed parts that makes them ‘stronger’. At this time, we are not promising silicon skin analogs for the prototype, but we may potentially be able to incorporate this feature as well. If we are close to integrating the silicon with the prototype, we may delay our final hand shipment to do just that. However, if a backer who pledged at the rewards level ($999 - $1999) would like their hand without the silicone, we would be more than willing to ship it without this integration.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)