Design of a 3D-printed hand prosthesis featuring articulated bio-inspired fingers

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Various upper-limb prostheses have been designed for 3D printing but only a few of them are based on bio-inspired design principles and many anatomical details are not typically incorporated even though 3D printing offers advantages that facilitate the application of such design principles. We therefore aimed to apply a bio-inspired approach to the design and fabrication of articulated fingers for a new type of 3D printed hand prosthesis that is body-powered and complies with basic user requirements. We first studied the biological structure of human fingers and their movement control mechanisms in order to devise the transmission and actuation system. A number of working principles were established and various simplifications were made to fabricate the hand prosthesis using a fused deposition modelling (FDM) 3D printer with dual material extrusion. We then evaluated the mechanical performance of the prosthetic device by measuring its ability to exert pinch forces and the energy dissipated during each operational cycle. We fabricated our prototypes using three polymeric materials including PLA, TPU, and Nylon. The total weight of the prosthesis was 92 g with a total material cost of 12 US dollars. The energy dissipated during each cycle was 0.380 Nm with a pinch force of ≈16 N corresponding to an input force of 100 N. The hand is actuated by a conventional pulling cable used in BP prostheses. It is connected to a shoulder strap at one end and to the coupling of the whiffle tree mechanism at the other end. The whiffle tree mechanism distributes the force to the four tendons, which bend all fingers simultaneously when pulled. The design described in this manuscript demonstrates several bio-inspired design features and is capable of performing different grasping patterns due to the adaptive grasping provided by the articulated fingers. The pinch force obtained is superior to other fully 3D printed body-powered hand prostheses, but still below that of conventional body powered hand prostheses. We present a 3D printed bio-inspired prosthetic hand that is body-powered and includes all of the following characteristics: adaptive grasping, articulated fingers, and minimized post-printing assembly. Additionally, the low cost and low weight make this prosthetic hand a worthy option mainly in locations where state-of-the-art prosthetic workshops are absent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-345
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project

Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • 3D printing
  • bio-inspired design
  • biomedical devices
  • hand prostheses
  • mechanical design


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