One-handed teenage violinist receives customized 3D-printed prosthetic hand

Let’s be honest: A lot of us are geeks who love the latest technology for technology’s sake. But there’s something extra special when you hear about a use case for cutting-edge tech that isn’t just exciting on its own terms, but proves to be genuinely transformative to someone’s life.

That’s the case with a recent project carried out at Northern Illinois University: Sarah Valentiner, a one-handed, 14-year-old violin player, became the recipient of a 3D-printed hand prosthesis that allows her to play the violin with a greatly increased range of motion.

“It was an amazing, collaborative project, which potentially opens up the possibility of helping someone become the next great musician,” Federico Sciammarella, an NIU associate professor of mechanical engineering, told Digital Trends.

Constructed out of lightweight nylon and plastic, the 3D-printed prosthesis is far superior to the more traditional prosthesis Valentiner used previously, which didn’t give her full control over her violin bow.

The new prosthesis was created by one of Sciammarella’s students, 21-year-old Oluseun Taiwo, who spent this past summer working with Valentiner to create a prosthesis that met all her requirements.

Taiwo adapted designs created by e-Nable, a network comprised of volunteer designers who share designs for 3D-printed prosthetic hands. Valentiner’s family originally approached e-Nable, which put them in touch with NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

“We looked at some of the designs that e-Nable had created, with regards to bow holders and things of that sort,” Sciammarella continued. “We tried a couple, and they were good, but there were a few challenges, like the fact that you had to disconnect and reconnect the bow each time. We wanted something that wouldn’t have to be disassembled every time, so … Taiwo worked on a modification. What he came up with looked a little sleeker, and was also more lightweight and comfortable.”

Sciammarella said 3D printing was transformative in this case, not just because it meant Valentiner’s prosthesis could be easily customized, but because this process can continue into the future.

“What’s great about 3D printing in this case is that we were able to make something that was uniquely fitted to her,” he said. “Even if we have to make modifications as Sarah grows older, these are things that can be simply done, which you wouldn’t be able to do with other technologies. 3D printing was also great because it meant we could do multiple iterations and variations over a 4 to 5 month period. That just wouldn’t be possible using other manufacturing methods.”

Product Review

The all-new Palm wants to be many things, but it’s really just a tiny smartphone

The all-new Palm is here, and it’s tinier than ever. Exclusive to Verizon, it syncs to your primary smartphone and acts as a secondary device -- with features to help you disconnect from technology. But at $350, is it worth the high price…
Product Review

Yeah, it’s fast, but the Pixel 3’s A.I. brains are the reason you’ll want one

Google’s latest smartphone is the Pixel 3. It’s slightly smaller than last year’s Pixel 2, but has a larger 5.5-inch OLED screen, and skimpier bezels. Unfortunately, the price has jumped - so are the new A.I. features worth it?
Product Review

Google cares, so it made sure the Home Hub doesn’t scare

Google’s newest smart home device has a screen, but it avoids the other feature that usually accompanies one — a camera. In an effort to make the Home Hub more friendly and attractive to the privacy-minded, it shutters a shutter and…
Product Review

The Pixel 3 XL is a great smartphone, but one flaw takes it down a notch

Google’s next big phone is here, and it’s the Pixel 3 XL. It has a 6.3-inch OLED screen that looks great, with strong performance and a predictably superior camera, but there’s a big, ugly problem -- the notch.
Emerging Tech

New ‘parkour’ video shows Boston Dynamics robot training to overthrow humanity

Robots doing backflips? That's so 2017! In its latest jaw-dropping YouTube video, Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot pulls off some frankly astonishing parkour stunts for our viewing pleasure.
Emerging Tech

With VR dinosaurs and ‘Minecraft,’ one hospital is making medicine less scary

From augmented reality rabbits on the wards to a Minecraft recreation of the hospital for kids to explore, one of the world's most renowned children's hospitals just got a major tech overhaul.
Emerging Tech

Will we ever fly supersonic again? Unraveling the concorde’s complex legacy

In a new book, Last Days of the Concorde, journalist and author Samme Chittum delves into the mindset that inspired engineers to design this marvel, the series of events that led to its fatal crash, and the possibility that commercial SSTs…
Emerging Tech

Check out the British Army’s beefy new bomb-disposal robot

The British Army is about to get an impressive new explosive ordnance disposal robot that is able to climb stairs, negotiate slopes, cut wires, and … oh, yes, dispose of bombs, too.
Emerging Tech

Kill it before it lays eggs! Crazy 32-leg robot moves like a cyborg sea urchin

We’ve seen one-legged, two-legged, four-legged and even six-legged robots, but researchers from Japan have gone way, way further with their latest project: A 32-legged robot. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Leafy greens are grown by machines at new, automated Silicon Valley farm

Farming hasn't changed too much for hundreds of years. Now a new startup called Iron Ox has opened its first automated hydroponics farm, producing a variety of leafy greens tended by machines.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

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!

As deaf gamers speak up, game studios are finally listening to those who can’t

Using social media, personal blogs and Twitch, a small group of deaf and hard-of-hearing players have been working to make their voices heard and improve accessibility in the gaming industry.
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Get your head in the clouds with the best vaporizers for flower and concentrates

Why combust dead plant matter when you could vaporize the good stuff and leave the leaves behind? Here's a rundown of the best vaporizers money can buy, no matter what your style is.