3D printed prosthetics by Victoria Hand Project

Victoria Hand: Creating ergonomic prosthetics with 3D printing

The Victoria Hand Project, which provides 3D printed hands for amputees across the world, is in a continuous state of evolution – as its team focuses on creating the best possible prosthetics for patients. Here’s more information about its most recent development – the Version 200.

Using a prosthesis is challenging. This is especially the case in developing countries; where cultural perceptions make some amputees feel overlooked or even shunned by their community. In Guatemala, for example, amputees often struggle to find work, and in Nepal, a non-cosmetic device occasionally leads to harsh judgment from others.

The importance of appearance

The VHP recognizes the role of aesthetics in prosthetics. Their current iteration, the Version 186, is a low-cost, functional 3D printed prosthetic, which offers an excellent range of movement. However, the team acknowledges that for a lot of patients, the functional aspect is secondary to its cosmetic appeal.

In some cases, patients refuse to wear the prosthesis if it doesn’t look right, or if they feel uncomfortable wearing it. In Nepal, amputees view prosthetics online and expect all prosthetics to look the same. When confronted with the reality of what they can afford, they choose not to wear them. This made the VHP team realize that they needed to develop a cost-effective solution.

VHP prosthetic hand Version 100
Version 100
VHP prosthetic hand Version 186
Version 186

Cosmetic appeal

After receiving extensive feedback, the Victoria Hand Project team began development of the Version 200. A significant portion of its R&D focused on cosmetics. The new design will feature a streamlined shape, more authentic-looking fingers and an overall smaller footprint.

It’s not only better looking, it’s more durable, and features a stronger pinch. The Version 200 also incorporates more rubber at the fingertips to improve the grip, and it’s easier to assemble and print (in some cases, reducing printing time by half). When working in developing countries, where power restrictions pose a serious problem, this is especially important.

VHP 3D printed prosthetic hand

When will the Version 200 be ready?

Both the Version 184 and 190 were extensively tested throughout their development processes, and the feedback has been integral for the development of the Version 200. At present, the new version is still being tested and prototyped in the lab. Thus far, only the CAD model has been shown to patients, but no real feedback has been gathered yet. The team predicts it will have a soft launch by the end of 2016, and will officially be launched early in 2017.

What’s the big deal?

The Version 200 marks a significant evolution for 3D printed prosthetic hands. It has far more ergonomic appeal, which in turn, will mean it’s more widely accepted by patients. The realistic fingers have been developed using various 3D scanning techniques, and have been reduced from six to four links per digit. This makes it far easier to assemble. Additionally, the mechanisms of the links have been updated to improve robustness and boost pinch strength.

Why 3D printing?

3D printing is proving to be invaluable to the medical sector. Medical equipment, including limb braces, can be custom-made in a matter of hours. Replacement parts for equipment can also be created by 3D printers, and it’s possible to improve designs speedily and inexpensively.

The Victoria Hand Project relies on 3D printing to make prosthetics not only cheaper but more accessible to patients around the world. Watch this space for further updates about their progress. Make sure to check out our stories to learn more about the VHP achievements and challenges, and stop by their website to show your support.

Disclaimer: Ultimaker 3D printers are designed and built for Fused Filament Fabrication with Ultimaker engineering thermoplastics within a commercial/business environment. The mixture of precision and speed makes the Ultimaker 3D printers the perfect machine for concept models, functional prototypes and the production of small series. Although we achieved a very high standard in the reproduction of 3D models with the usage of Ultimaker Cura, the user remains responsible to qualify and validate the application of the printed object for its intended use, especially critical for applications in strictly regulated areas like medical devices and aeronautics.