3D printing used to create prosthetic hand for an 8-year-old boy

We may be years away from 3D printing being used to bioprint full organs which can be used in transplants to save lives, but make no mistake about it: additive manufacturing is already helping people.

This month, an eight-year-old British boy named William Joyner, who was born without a left hand, received a 3D-printed robotic prosthesis that lets him grip objects and even hold a pen.

“Within a few minutes of having it on his hand, William had picked up a marker and was drawing a picture and signing his name,” Professor David Jazani, a senior lecturer at University of Bedfordshire — who helped create the prosthesis — told Digital Trends. “While he was doing this I glanced across at his mom, and her eyes were full of tears. That’s when we realized just how worthwhile this work is.”

According to Professor Jazani, William’s mother first got in touch with the university after reading a story online about a 3D-printed prosthesis, and believing that similar technology could transform her son’s life. Professor Jazani worked with technician Mark Hooper to build the piece.

An initial prototype was first developed earlier this year, although it was only this week that a more robust final model was completed and presented to William. “[The first prototype] worked, but it was also extremely fragile,” Jazani said. “Some of the plastic parts in it were just 1mm thick. Its material, ABS plastic, has a lot of benefits, but it also has downsides — such as the fact that when it’s exposed to sunlight it starts to erode and becomes a lot more brittle. In all likelihood, [the first prototype] would have broken in a matter of hours. We needed a way to make it more robust.”

Not only did the final version of the prosthesis meet this criteria, but Jazani and Hooper even 3D-printed it in the blue and white colors of William’s favorite soccer team. It should be usable by William until he is in his teenage years.

“One of the most important things about 3D printing is that it lends itself so well to rapid prototyping,” Jazani concluded. “Previously to make a part, we’d have had to create a mold and do injection molding. It was a lengthy and very, very expensive process. With 3D printing all of that changes. It’s very exciting.”

Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Gaming

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Mobile

Rekindled yet again, Nokia’s next-gen phones offer more than just nostalgia

HMD Global, a startup that designs and builds Nokia Android smartphones, wants to put the Nokia brand name back “where it belongs.” It helps that it’s made up of ex-Nokia employees. We go behind the scenes to see how HMD formed.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.