Researchers at Curtin University are using 3D printing to make a hand exoskeleton that could redefine the future of hand rehabilitation, both in terms of cost and fewer rehab visits for patients.
Called the Assisted Finger Orthosis, the hand exoskeleton can be customized for an individual using 48 parameters. The battery-powered device uses small linear motors that can be programmed to move the finger as part of the rehab process.
According to the researchers, physical therapists could remotely set the parameters for finger movement, the range of motion and the frequency.
Each finger on the exoskeleton has eight rigid parts and pins that can be made using a 3D printer. Dr Lei Cui, mechatronics engineering lecturer and researcher at Curtin University, led the development of the Assisted Finger Orthosis. Dr. Cui says “for each individual finger, the total cost is about $100, it’s very affordable.” Dr. Cui says the exoskeleton would be very expensive if it wasn’t 3D printed.
“Robotic exoskeletons can protect a patient’s tendons while minimising the risk of complications after hand tendon surgery,” Dr. Cui says. “A tailor made exoskeleton that fits an individual’s hand perfectly will define the future of hand rehabilitation.”
The Assisted Finger Orthosis won the $15,000 first prize at the recent Curtin Commercial Innovation awards.