Title-pun aside, losing a limb is certainly far from funny. It’s an often unacknowledged burden that more people have to bear than many realize. In fact, the impact and effect that amputation, be it because of an accident, a birth defect or a medical condition, has on people is something that is not yet fully explored even in the field of psychology.
To a layman it may seem simple – a missing limb can always be replaced by a prosthetic, can’t it? The simple answer is no. Depending on the type of impairment, the limb in question and a whole host of other factors, individual patients may or may not be able to use a prosthetic limb replacement.
A 3D-printed solution?
Even then there is no guarantee that the patient will be able to work with it, or even just afford it. One recent technology has improved the situation, and significantly: 3D printing. While 3D printers have significantly brought down the cost of many types of prosthetics, they are far from easily accessible for many, and especially when it comes to particularly versatile limbs like hands and fingers, there is much left to be done.
Naked Prosthetics, an American prosthetics manufacturing company is active in this niche – they specialize in providing functional prosthetics that allow those who have lost one or multiple fingers to go about their daily lives as normal.
Their prosthetics allow affected patients to regain (almost) complete use of what is one of the most important limbs of the human body – the hand. Made out of stainless steel, nylon components, and silicon materials, these prosthetics allow not only for rough movements but even for the return of fine motor skills.
Restoring options believed lost
Needless to say, this type of technology can have an incredibly huge impact on the daily lives of many people. When it comes to prosthetics, it is often leg and foot prosthetics that people think of first – while restoring mobility can have a big impact on a patient’s life, the same can be said for what most of us take for granted – something as simple as the ability to pick up a pen and sign our name.
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It’s a sad truth that until relatively recently, hand and finger-prosthetics were viewed as a second-tier prosthetic, because of the limited functionality most offered. NP is one of the first companies to successfully change that. Instead of simply replacing the missing body part, as is often done for leg or arm prosthetics, NP’s MCPDriver, PIPDriver, and ThumbDriver focus on returning function, a much more complicated endeavor.
3 products to change lives for the better
Of those three, the ThumbDriver is perhaps the most remarkable. The thumb itself is by far the most important digit of the hand – many tools and tasks are explicitly designed to require the use of a thumb – even simply using a smartphone can be difficult without a thumb. The ThumbDriver replaces the missing digit and restores the opposition and strength that make the thumb so important.
The MCPDriver is a more complete prosthesis that can replace multiple missing digits. They are unique to each user and can restore multiple partial or complete finger-amputations with one prosthetic.
The PIPDriver is the original Naked Prosthetic device – it is intended for amputees that are only missing part of one or multiple fingers. More specifically, they require the middle finger joint (or PIP) to be intact. This kind of partial digit replacement is a relatively unexplored prosthetics niche, as it is even more difficult to create prosthetics for partially missing digits, rather than a complete finger or hand.
The work Naked Prosthetics is doing is important, as they are not just helping people with amputations retake control of their life, but also because they are raising awareness of this issue in the first place – something that is still not as advanced as it should be.
YouTube: A Naked Prosthetics Story – Saku
Photo credit: All images are owned by Naked Prosthetics.
Mel is a UK-based journalist that has been writing about tech, science and video games for a few years now. After studying in Vienna, Austria she followed her dreams and moved to London. Said dreams took her through a few different jobs before she settled on what she really wanted to do – write about the exciting world of technology and the delightfully strange things it sometimes produces.