Mechanical Engineer Lost His Fingers, So He Built Himself a Super Dexterous Bionic Hand
Sometimes when you’re faced with life’s hardest adversities, you find yourself rising up to the challenge. That’s what happened to mechanical engineer Ian Davis, who suffered an accident in 2019 at his workshop while he was also battling cancer. As a result, he had to have four of the fingers on his left hand amputated. Being left-hand dominant, he knew he had to regain use for his craft. Plus, initially, his insurance wasn’t willing to pay for a prosthetic hand as they said fingers weren’t “medically necessary.” So, instead of dwelling on his loss and succumbing to the stress, he decided to build his own bionic hand from his hospital bed with the help of a 3D printer.
After a couple of years and multiple plastic and aluminum prototypes later, he’s developed a stellar electromechanical prosthetic hand that has super dexterity and prosthetic attachments that can hold heavy-duty hand tools, a mini chainsaw, and even a video game controller!
Made of mostly aluminum, Davis’ bionic hand is made up of multiple linkages and levers, some of which even incorporate bike chains! When he moves his hand or wrist, the links and levers convey that movement to the aluminum fingers. This allows Davis to make fists, splay his fingers, etc. – comparable to a real human hand! While he had tried using electric devices, he found that they didn’t respond as quickly to his tendons as the mechanical version did.
He also created an impact driver “prosthetic” because, without fingers, he couldn’t drive screws with an impact driver. Per a request from a YouTube subscriber, Davis also created a video game controller “prosthetic,” with an attachment that allows you to press the command buttons. He also developed a forearm-mounted retractable electric chainsaw, which also was a YouTube subscriber request, but it was also an invention he put to use in his own workshop.
Davis has shared his journey and his state-of-the-art inventions on his YouTube channel and on Instagram. He’s also filmed a video series that teaches the basics of making your own prosthesis, from custom molding the socket to building the circuit board and machining gears.
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