Easton LaChappelle is 17 years old, from Colorado and has a dream “to create an affordable prosthetic for everyday use.” LaChappelle has used 3D printing to make his dream become a reality and believes that the printing technology could shape the future of prosthetic’s.
Initially LaChappelle’s first foray into prosthetics was when he built a robotic hand out of Lego bricks at the age of 14. The Lego hand sparked him to learn electronics and modelling software. It also won him third place at the Colorado state science fair in 2011.
After the science fair, LaChappelle went back to the drawing board and found the open source Inmoov humanoid robot on Thingiverse, that Gael Langevin and a number of others are developing. This allowed him to create a fully functioning robotic arm that could grip and hold objects. A Makerbot 3D printer was used to print of the Inmoov components.
For the third iteration of his robotic arm, LaChappelle decided to create the whole arm including the shoulder. He also connected the robotic arm to a brainwave headset that reads the user’s brainwaves to get a focus rate. This enables users to focus on an object and the robotic hand will grip it. LaChappelle added a feedback system in conjunction with the headset to allow users a sense of touch. He used a force sensor and a vibrating motor to create the effect.
Heineken has already seen another use for LaChappelle’s arm and has asked him to produce around 5,000 pieces of the robotic arm to serve beers to customers in bars. It could also be used in hospitals and manufacturing to great effect.
LaChappelle’s version three robotic arm cost around $250 to make compared to around $100,000 that conventional prosthetic arms cost.
Gael Langevin has been working on producing a life-size animatronic robot with 3D printed parts. When he started the project Langevin didn’t have any robotics experience, so his initial goal was simple: to produce a robotic hand. That worked out so well that Langevin kept right on going. He’s got the head, arms and part of the upper torso completed. The best news is, his work is all open source so you can jump in and join the team.
Watch the TEDx Talk video of LaChappelle and take a look at the Inmoov video below.