Improving mobility and quality of life through 3D printed prosthetics

Upper-limb prostheses are a necessity for patients all over the world, totalling over one million people worldwide. Such devices allow patients to complete everyday tasks which would otherwise be impossible. Two engineering students from Strathclyde University in Glasgow are aiming to build a body-powered prosthetic hand that will be affordable and functional to its users.

The team are hoping their innovative STEM business concept will change the lives of amputees around the world. Currently, only 8.8% of amputees report being able to continue the same work. Similarly, 39.7% become unemployed, and 30% suffer from extreme depression.

After working on a prosthetic project at university, the team identified a gap in the market that their engineering skills could fill and decided to take this forward as the business – Metacarpal.

They've developed a prototype prosthetic hand that will be powered by shoulder, arm and elbow movements – created using 3D printers in their bedrooms in Glasgow.

Metacarpal Logo

Fergal Mackie, one half of the team, said: “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are the tools that you can use to solve any problem in the world – big or small. If we can deliver a product that is actually helping people and to be able to do this through our own business; it would be amazing.”

Technical detail

The hand operates through a cable that when pulled, causes the fist to close. The cable connects to a shoulder harness so that users may operate their hand through body movement. Novel mechanisms within the hand enable all the fingers to close independently, from pulling a single cable.

Building upon this are several other entirely mechanical systems that enable switching between grips and improve the utility of the device. And, because the hand contains zero electronics, the weight is drastically reduced, the cost is lower and it's also much more robust than other bionic hands. This all results in a product that has optimal function, is light enough to be worn all day, gives people confidence and is at a price that is affordable.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

3 -Good Health and Well-being
9 - Innovation and Infrastructure
17 - Partnerships for the Goals