Executive director Nik Dechev of the Victoria Hand Project shows a variety of 3D-printed prosthesis built in-house at the UVic Engineering Lab Wing. Travis Paterson/News Staff

3D printers make Victoria Hand Project a reality

UVic bioengineer puts finger on global issue

Squeeze your shoulders and suddenly the prosthetic hand attached to your arm closes in a grip.

With a custom-made prosthetic from the Victoria Hand Project and you can pick up anything from a piece of cheese to a hammer, and hopefully one day, grab the handlebar on a bike.

“Unfortunately we can’t control what the end user does, we’ve heard stories about people using them on bikes, but we don’t make [or recommend] these for bicycling yet,” says Nick Dechev, executive director of the Hand Project and also the director of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Victoria.. “Hopefully that’s down the line because cycling is a primary source of transportation in developing countries.”

VHP’s mandate is simple, to give people in developing countries access to prosthetics. Already, by working with engineers in those countries, the project has fit 90 people with prosthetics in Guatemala, Nepal, Cambodia, Haiti, Ecuador and Egypt. They’ve fit a handful of locals here in Victoria and Canada as well.

With their $250,000 Google Impact Canada grant (won in 2017), VHP are now targeting another 280 hands in the next few years.

“We want to have an Ikea style of prosthetics,” Dechev said. “We have partners in those countries and the idea is [we share our knowledge with them] so they can build the hands themselves, and we actively support them.”

Dechev started the project on his own in 2013, based on a metal hand he crafted way back in 1999. With a pair $70,000 grants from Grand Challenges Canada, and some smaller grants, it allowed VHP to expand initially into Cambodia and Nepal. Unlike a lot of research projects that end in a few high-fives and go into storage with other projects, this one spun off to become a project unto itself.

What makes the hands so effective is the cost. At the same time bionic hands are coming on to the market for exorbitant prices (more than $10 thousand), VHP is producing a fitted, light weight prosthetic that can grip an object for the cost of $110.

“We found that amputees are often in need as it limits work opportunities,” Dechev said.

When a client is fitted their arm is scanned with a 3D scanner and then a cast is created. The prosthetic fits around that, with a wrist and socket attached, as well as a mechanical cable. It’s all built in one of VHP’s 3D printers.

“It’s a blend between light duty and cosmetics,” Dechev said.

In Canada, for example, someone with an amputated arm has access to the classic hook prosthetic, should it last three to five years. The hook has it’s positives, but overall it has nothing on a fitted VHP prosthetic, Dechev said.

How VHP makes it work is by linking the prosthetic to a harness that wraps around the shoulders. The harness pulls a cable (the same kind used in a bicycle brake) when the user flexes their shoulders. It then activates the hand, which will close the grip, including putting the thumb and pointer finger together.

It’s so useful, the stories they’re hearing from users in foreign countries are enough to scare Dechev, such as the stories of people cycling.

reporter@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Santa’s Light parade glides through town on Saturday

Vancouver Island’s most popular Christmas parade is back for its 36th year

VIDEO: Innovating healthier homes

NZ Builders bring commercial concept into residential realm to improve energy efficiency and health

West Shore RCMP catch thieves in the act in Colwood

Thieves were trying to steal a utility trailer from the driveway of a home

FISHING ADVENTURES: Winter fishing starts to pick up

Crabbing in Sooke Harbour continues to be good with large male Dungeness around

Sooke girls volleyball squad places seventh at Island tourney

Dawn Gibson Sooke News Mirror The EMCS senior girls volleyball team made… Continue reading

Victoria’s Gingerbread Showcase on full display

Donate to place a vote for the people’s choice winner and support Habitat For Humanity

Wet weather expected for much of coastal B.C.

The Weather Network is calling for up to 200mm of rain to fall in some areas of the South Coast and Vancouver Island

B.C. reporter reflects on covering Charles Manson

Charles Manson, leader of a murderous cult, died on Sunday at 83

Running back propels Spectrum Thunder into first Subway Bowl final

Brandon Robbins scores hat trick of touchdowns

ICBC overbilling for crash repairs not the problem, dealers say

Collision repair shops reject union claim of inflated costs

B.C. groups to address child sex abuse in sports

viaSport is organizing a full day of education in association with Canadian Centre for Child Protection and the Coaching Association of Canada.

Report sets exercise guidelines for young kids, including ‘tummy time’ for babies

Kids aged one to four should get at least three hours of physical activity throughout the day

Stampeders return to Grey Cup with 32-28 win over Edmonton Eskimos

The Stampeders will face the Toronto Argonauts next Sunday in Ottawa for the title

Nebraska approves TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline

Nebraska’s Public Service Commission approved TransCanada’s Keystone XL route in a close vote

Most Read