3D-printed 'Spock' hand lets young amputee play basketball again

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fcard%2fimage%2f109647%2faioprostheticarmpicAn engineer holding the 3D-printed “Spock” hand.

Image: AIO Robotics

Live long and play basketball.

It’s not exactly what Star Trek’s pointy-eared Vulcan had in mind when he raised his hand in the now-familiar Vulcan salute, but surely he’d appreciate the sentiment — especially when it refers to a young amputee who can now dribble a basketball and shoot baskets again thanks to a 3D-printed prosthesis that makes it look as if the boy is simultaneously shooting and giving the Vulcan greeting.

The prosthetic hand gets its signature look from its very specific design purpose: playing basketball. So instead of five fingers, there are just three, two of which are spread apart in the familiar Vulcan salute to fit around a basketball. Every finger tip is covered in rubber to provide a better grip and to give the right backspin during a shot.

The Spock hand in use

The Spock hand in use.

Image: AIO robotics

The masterminds behind this one-of-a-kind prosthetic are the members at the UCLA chapter of 3D for Everyone (3D4E), a team of 3D printing and prototyping enthusiasts. 

Along with the UCLA Women’s basketball team and the Biomedical Engineering Society, 3D4E at UCLA started working on project late last year with the goal of giving children with hand deformities the chance to play basketball.   

They eventually found out about a little boy named Logan and his desire to play basketball again, a feat virtually impossible with most traditional prosthesis, and set about designing something special.

According to AIO Robotics, the company that makes the 3D printer (a Zeus All in One) the team used to print all the Spock-hand pieces, 3D4E started with a design from the E-enabling the Future team, another group of 3D tinkerers with a history of designing and giving away 3D-printed prosthesis for amputees. 3D-printed prostheses can cost thousands of dollars less than their custom-built counterparts.


The Spock hand is built to dribble.

Image: aio robotics

The design not only features the unusual finger configuration, but springs to help it mimic the whipping motion in the wrist needed to make a basketball shot and even the ability to dribble a basketball.

Last week, 3D4E finished a ‘Spock” hand prototype and invited Logan to the UCLA campus to test it. After a slow start, Logan reportedly made 17 baskets.

Shoot long and sink the three-pointer, indeed.

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