December 14, 2015

Two researchers from the University of Cape Town have developed an award-winning and affordable 3D printed mechanical hand with individual finger control.

Dr. George Vicatos, the Popular Mechanics’ South African Inventor of the year worked side by side with his MSc student, Severin Tenim to design and develop a low-cost mechanical hand, which was presented and awarded at the Popular Mechanics Future Tech event in Cape Town.

Dr. George Vicatos commented, “I wanted to address amputees in the low-income bracket; to create a hand that doesn’t cost a fortune, but that works similarly to a real hand. Because the alternative for this income group is a hook, or a non–functional hand.”

The mechanical hand’s individual finger control was specifically designed for right or left upper limb amputees, to allow patients to control their fingers by using a metal cord and a release functionality.

The cords are placed at the back in a harness, as the movements of the shoulder controls the release function. Through such unique control system, individual fingers can move independently. Dr Vicatos stated, “There is no other mechanically operated device that is as close to the anatomical function of the hand as this,” said Dr. Vicatos.

Components for the mechanical hand were 3d printed in the University of Capetown and were assembled by Vicatos and his student, Tenim.


While the design is still yet to be completed, its potential usages for South African amputees are recognized by many medical and 3d printing technology experts. The mechanical hand will be commercially available at a cost of around $2,200, which is much cheaper than electronic hands currently available in the market that cost around US$40,000 to US$80,600.


By offering the potential prosthetic alternative at a price 10 times cheaper, Vicatos and Tenim aims to provide another cost-effective and yet more innovative option for South African amputees.


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