Unfortunately, state-of-the-art medical technology is still unaffordable for many around the world. That in itself was enough to persuade two mechanical engineering students at Leipzig University of Applied Sciences (HTWK Leipzig) to transfer the concept of open source to the rehabilitation sector and develop the prototype for an active orthosis for hand rehabilitation. The students are now presenting their "Exohand" at HANNOVER MESSE, a device that is worn like a glove and uses motors to bend and stretch individual fingers. The mechanical support is designed to help patients with movement disorders in their hand - due to e.g. stroke or an operation - to regain control of the movement in their hand.
"The Exohand can be easily assembled from parts made on a 3D printer and conventional, widely available mechanical components," explains mechanical engineer Frank Schmidt, who has been working on the orthosis with his colleague Michael Sanne for two years. Both students are being supervised by Detlef Riemer who is a professor of mechatronics. The students are exhibiting the third development stage of the Exohand at HANNOVER MESSE 2017 and want to make the production guide and software for the rehabilitation devices available for free online. Thanks to rapid prototyping, the production costs for users had to be kept below 250 euros per unit. "We believe that having access to medical products shouldn't depend on where a person is born," emphasizes Frank Schmidt. "In Germany, the health insurance funds cover the costs of necessary rehabilitation measures. However, in many other countries around the world, high-tech medical products are unaffordable for most people. The arrival of fab labs and makerspaces throughout the world could help counter this, as these places often have 3D printers available for use. Using these resources, you can build our Exohand yourself." Since there is still some development work to do before then, the mechanical engineering students are hoping to make contact with other engineers and potential partners and investors at HANNOVER MESSE.