Teen Makes a 3D Printed Robohand for Friend


3D Printing appears to be bringing out the best in people.

Recently, third grader Matthew received a 3D printed robotic hand, thanks to his friend, 16-year-old high school student Mason Wilde.

Matthew was born with only a thumb and a few partial digits on his right hand. While he could still do many things that 9-year-olds do, Matthew says he was “bored with that” and wanted to do more.

Matthew’s mother said that Matthew hadn’t shown much interest in getting a commercial prosthetic hand before. And the high price of a prosthetic hand, about $18,000, would have made it somewhat difficult to obtain.

But when Matthew’s mom found a “Robohand,” a 3D printed hand design online, she showed it to Matthew and he got excited. This hand wasn’t like commercial prosthetics; it’s very cool, futuristic, and high-tech looking.

Matthew’s mom thought that she could make the hand for him but the design was complicated. Then she thought of Wilde, who is a math and computer whiz kid.

Matthew showed the design to Wilde, which is when Mason decided to take matters into his own hands, and 3D printed the prosthetic robotic hand for Matthew at the local library, which had a 3D printer that was free for anyone with a library card to use.

Robohand was originally co-designed by Ivan Owen and Richard Van As, a South African woodworker who had lost a finger and parts of three others in a workshop accident. The first 3-D printer version of Robohand was made in January 2013, and Van As and Owen put the free instructions online.

The design offers an affordable alternative to commercial prosthetics, and new hands can be reprinted as children grow.

Using a drill, pliers, and about $60 worth of materials, including a dye kit, screws, nylon string, and plastic for the gauntlet, Mason put the hand together with Matthew standing by his side.

When Matthew tried on the hand for the first time, he transformed into “the incredible super kid,” he ran around the house laughing and slapping high fives.

The new hand has given happiness and empowerment to Matthew, and he and Wilde have become pretty good buddies.

Wilde, who has plans to become an engineer, says that he wants to save for a 3D printer, to create prosthetics for other kids.