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NU Researchers Pioneering in Field of 3D Printer Prosthetics for Children

A group of researchers from four NU campuses have received a two-year grant to collaborate on the Next Generation 3D printer prostheses for children.  

The grant is from the Collaboration Initiative, which NU President Dr. Hank Bounds started in 2015 to encourage inter-campus research collaboration.

The grant’s lead investigator, Dr. Jorge Zuniga, an assistant professor of biomechanics at UNO, says up to 58% of children missing a hand or upper limb are not fitted for a prosthetic device, or they get one and reject it.

In response to this need, Zuniga developed the Cyborg Beast, an open-source 3D prosthetic hand, which can be constructed for about $50.00 and has been downloaded over 52,000 times.  Zuniga says designing a prosthesis for a child is challenging because it is important they accept it. He says their design has kids in mind as far as appearance and ease of use, as well as cost.

“So if they like Batman or Spiderman, we can make those changes and make it look like Spiderman and Batman. Also, if they like the hand to look like a robot, we can certainly do that as well. These devices are made out of plastic, so they are very light. So they don’t require -- like a prosthetic arm -- doesn’t require a harness. We figured out if you make a device that they can put on themselves, they will be more likely to use it.”

Zuniga says one of the goals for this grant is to develop electronic, switch-activated versions of their prostheses.  Another is to use brain imaging to learn what happens in the brains of children who use 3D prosthetic devices – something he says their team will be the first to research.

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