5-Year-Old Throws Out 1st Pitch With 3D Printed Robotic Hand

Hailey Dawson, born with a rare congenital disease that affected the growth of her right hand, receives a custom Baltimore Orioles-themed prosthetic hand to throw out the first pitch at Camden Yards.

Photo Caption: Hailey Dawson Dawson wears the Flexy-Hand 2, a 3D-printed prosthetic device created by the UNLV engineering department.

We’ve shared some incredible stories about how 3D printed robotic hands have changed people’s lives.

There’s Taylor Morris, a quadruple amputee who lost his limbs in an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan, who worked with a friend to customize a hand using Open Bionics’ open-source Dextrus design.

There’s Josh Cathcart, a 9-year-old boy from Scotland who now uses an app-controlled i-limb ultra robot arm that allows him to choose from up to 14 automated grips and gestures to complete daily tasks.

Here’s another touching story about 5-year-old Hailey Dawson, who was born with a rare congenital disease called Poland syndrome that caused her to be born without a pectoral muscle and affected the growth of three fingers on her right hand.

Dawson worked with engineers at UNLV in 2014 to develop a 3D printed robotic hand. More recently, the engineers developed a custom Baltimore Orioles-themed hand so Dawson could throw out the first pitch at Camden Yards on Monday before the series finale between the Orioles and Oakland Athletics.

PHOTOS: How Dawson’s 3D Printed Hand Was Made

Watch the video below, it’s tremendous.

Dawson’s story is even more remarkable. Her parents were told it would cost $20,000-plus for a robotic hand. And, for a growing girl, that’s not practical as the hand would have to be refitted many times throughout the years.

Dawson’s parents then turned to Robohand, a South African organization that uses open-source 3D printing to create cost-effective prosthetic hands. However, the logistics were too difficult as it required shipping pieces back and forth for constant re-sizing.

So they turned to UNLV, and the rest is history. Here’s an excerpt from a UNLV News Center story profiling Dawson’s story:

Initially, the researchers thought that one of the Robohand concepts, among the roughly 100 or so already developed and available to the public, would be a perfect fit for Hailey. But none were, and the team needed to start from scratch, creating a customized hand blending design ideas and materials found around the world through Internet research.

The new hand will bend and grip with the flex of Hailey’s wrist. To improve grip, the team tweaked their design with ideas from the Flexy-Hand platform. “The tasks the person using the hand wants to accomplish affect the design,” said O’Toole. “One challenge is that once you get to use the hand, does the amount of wrist flexation give enough grip to do with it what she wants to do?” Like swinging a bat.

UNLV’s Stratasys Fortus 250MC 3-D printer has been the workhorse for this project. The machine’s very fine resolution allows for precision printing of parts. In the machine, a yarn-like spool of plastic filament connects to a print head, which sprays layers of plastic just 0.007-inches thick until eventually smooth, very real-looking hand shapes form. The team chose ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic for all-weather use.

“It’s not going to be completely smooth, but it does get pretty close,” said Jeff Markle, director of the mechanical engineering department’s laboratory.

The more intricate the project, the longer and harder the Fortus must work, adds Markle. Some print jobs can take several days, and several versions of Hailey Dawson’s prosthetic hand, and its numerous small pieces, have had to make their way through the Fortus machine. The greatest challenge still lies in translating the idea from the CAD software into a final 3-D product.

“As with anything, when you have the model in the computer it looks good. But when you really assemble it, that’s when you see the problems,” Trabia said.

The team enlisted local occupational therapists from Touro University and from Matt Smith Physical Therapy to fine-tune the fit and help Hailey adjust to the hand.

[Source:] For the Win

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.


Log in to leave a Comment

Editors’ Picks

10 Best Robots of CES 2018
Self-driving cars were the talk of Las Vegas during CES 2018. We recap...

Top 10 AI & Robot Stories of 2017
2018 is shaping up to be a massive year for automation. But first,...

Breaking Down Autonomous Systems
Future tech: Autonomous intelligence

Robots are Learning to Pick up Objects Like Babies
UC Berkeley has developed a technique that enables robots to complete tasks...