Graduate Student Creates Fully-functioning Prosthetic Thumb

Posted: Jul 8 2017, 12:09pm CDT | by , Updated: Jul 8 2017, 1:12pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Artificial Third Thumb Extends Hand’s Natural Abilities
Credit: Dani Clode

The flexible 3D printed thumb is aiming to add capabilities rather than replacing the missing limbs

While prostheses are mostly used to replace the lost body parts, a student at Royal College of Arts has found another purpose of them. Graduate student Dani Clode has created a 3D-printed prosthetic thumb that is meant to extend the natural abilities of a hand instead of fixing a missing limb.

Named The Third Thumb, the prosthetic device can help users carry objects, play cards, use tools or squeeze lemons.

“The origin of the word 'prosthesis' meant 'to add, put onto', so not to fix or replace, but to extend. The Third Thumb is inspired by this word origin, exploring human augmentation and aiming to reframe prosthetics as extensions of the body. It is part tool, part experience, and part self-expression. It instigates necessary conversation about the definition of 'ability'.” Dani Clod’s website reads.

The Third Thumb does not work alone. It needs to be placed on one side of a hand. Then it is connected to a wristband containing motor, batteries and Bluetooth connection. The movement of artificial thumb is controlled by pressure sensors embedded in the user's shoes. Instructions are sent via Bluetooth signals from feet to the wristband. When feet are pressed, the thumb moves. The movement stops as soon as the user lifts up his feet.

The 3D printed flexible thumb is made from a flexible yet strong type of plastic called Ninjaflex. The thumb not only adds a sixth digit to the hand but extends the abilities of anyone who wears it. The most interesting thing about this prosthetic thumb is its uncompleted system. The process becomes even easier once people get used to wearing the device and get more control when dealing with different objects.

“It is a tool, an experience and a form of self-expression. When we start to extend our abilities and when we reframe prosthetics, then we start to shift the focus from ‘fixing’ disability to extending ability,” said Clod.

“The Third Thumb aims to challenge the perception of prosthetics. By extending the body, I see it creating a similar trajectory for prosthetics as glasses or plastic surgery.”

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