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Spotlight on Indiegogo: The Robohand tech project

Project Name: Robohand

Category: Technology

Goal: $10,000 (£6,400)

Currently Funded: $9,025 (£5,800)

Deadline for Pledging: 11 June 2013

Robohand is a prime example of necessity being the mother of invention. After Richard van As lost four fingers in a woodworking accident, the South African carpenter discovered that prosthetics companies experimenting with fingers were exorbitantly expensive — so he set about crafting some mechanical fingers himself.

Richard struggled with his prototypes for a year before seeing a video featuring a mechanical prop-hand made by Washington state-based Ivan Owens, whom he promptly contacted. The two men started to collaborate on prototype designs via email and Skype for several months and were finally able to script a file. With 3D printer maker MakerBot jumping in and donating two 3D Replicators, they started manufacturing the small parts they needed.

In November 2012, the mother of a five-year-old boy named Liam contacted Richard after stumbling upon Robohand's Facebook page. Liam was born with Anmiotic Band Syndrome (ABS), meaning his right hand was "strangled" by amniotic bands in the womb, so his digits could not grow.Following some back and forth, Richard and Ivan built a fully functioning, 3D-printed hand for Liam, who can now draw and colour just like other kids his age.

Even cooler, since building the initial Robohand Richard has put his open source designs up on Thingiverse for anyone to download. He has provided the device to four children in South Africa so far, but to keep it free, Robohand is asking backers for funds to supply required materials like PLA plastic for the printers.

Have a 3D printer and want to lend a hand? Robohand has created the Helping Hands Database to map Makerbot owners willing to print Robohands for those in need.