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Lunet mechanical prosthesis

Houston Student Designs 3D-Printed Prosthetic Fingers for Free Distribution

A recent graduate from the University of Houston has developed an innovative 3D-printed prosthetic finger that can be easily assembled without glue or tools. He plans to freely share the open-source design online to help amputees worldwide who cannot afford expensive prosthetics.

David Edkilang created the prosthesis, named Lunet, as an undergraduate project mentored by UH professor Jeff Feng. It recently won Red Dot Design Award’s top honor for its simplicity and effectiveness restoring finger mobility.

Standard prosthetic fingers can cost thousands, often leaving amputees with limited function. But Edkilang aims to put Lunet in the public domain rather than commercializing it.

“Not every good idea should become a business,” he said. “Medical insurance often doesn’t cover prosthetic fingers since they’re not seen as vital as a leg or arm. Making Lunet freely available online will help the most people.”

Through Feng’s collaboration with Harris Health System, Edkilang learned of a frostbite patient whose fingers were amputated. Working closely with Feng, he created an affordable prosthetic that gave her back the ability to grasp objects.

Lunet is 3D-printed from PLA and TPU plastics. Each finger has four snap-together parts joined by plastic pins for easy assembly without tools. Edkilang designed the range of motion around elegant arcs and orbits, inspiring the name Lunet after the cycles of the moon.

“Increased mechanical complexity means less durability,” he explained. “The more moving parts, the more potential failure points. It was critical to keep the design as simple and robust as possible while restoring function.”

This balancing act - keeping things straightforward yet functional - proved one of the toughest challenges in developing Lunet but paid off with its award-winning effectiveness.

The hands-on collaboration between Edkilang, Feng, and doctors at Harris Health offers a model for how universities can work with the community to address real-world problems. And the decision to freely distribute Lunet’s design exemplifies using ingenuity for the greater good.

“Not every good idea should turn into a business,” said Edkilang. “Sometimes the best ideas just need to be put into practice.”

With its creative geometry and snap-fit assembly, Lunet promises to make highly capable prosthetic fingers broadly accessible to the many who need them. Edkilang’s humanitarian approach could open new possibilities for people worldwide lacking resources.

“If we make Lunet available on the internet for free, it will help the greatest number of people,” Edkilang explained.

By evolving the prosthesis through an open-source approach, users can also customize Lunet’s design to their own needs, adapting it to grasp objects in their particular use cases. As 3D printing becomes increasingly available, localized fabrication based on online designs unlocks DIY solutions.

Edkilang’s elegant balance of simplicity and function combined withliberal sharing of the technology offers a compelling model of inclusive innovation. Lunet prosthetic fingers put capable, effective and affordable assistance literally into the hands of users, restoring capabilities that many once thought lost. Just as the moon orbits to share its reflected sunlight, this UH grad hopes to light up lives by freely distributing his enlightened invention.

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