Open Source Prosthetics

Collaborating from opposite sides of the planet -- working from their kitchens and garages -- a team of two men has developed a functioning prosthetic finger at a fraction of the cost such devices normally incur.
Long-distance collaborators create inexpensive prosthetic finger  
When South African craftsman Richard Van As lost most of the fingers from his right hand in an industrial accident, he decided to try and create a prosthetic finger to regain some of his lost mobility. In order to bring this about, Richard recruited the help of Washington State native Ivan Owen, after being impressed with the latter's mechanical hand prop which he had posted on YouTube. The result could be a boon to amputees everywhere.
 Despite living over 10,000 miles apart, Richard and Ivan set to work exchanging emails, photos and drawings while conversing via Skype, in order to construct a working prototype. The arduous process of actually manufacturing the prosthetic finger began with Richard creating a plastic replica of his hand for Ivan’s reference, ensuring that both were working from the same page, and from here the design was refined at length.

Owen and Van As are not looking to patent the prototype -- they want to make the work freely available to anyone who will benefit from it in the expectation that others will join in the effort to develop and hone the capability of the prosthetic.

Open-source prosthetic development. It's time to start trying to come to terms with how fundamentally different our world is going to be once the Maker Revolution truly sets in. For the developing world, it's going to be all about the sudden new availability of necessities -- in quantities never before imagined -- at little or no cost. In the developed world it's going to be as much about meeting wants as needs, but stories like this one speak to another possibility: meeting both needs and wants in completely unexpected ways, driven by a whole new class of independent inventors / developers for whom advancing social and production technologies are rapidly tearing down the barriers between the imagination and reality.

Check out Owen and Van As' prosthetic in action:


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