More lifelike, functional prosthetics for lost fingers may soon be more readily available as mechanical digits known as X Fingers are set to be mass-produced within six months, according to inventor Dan Didrick.
X Fingers are fashioned out of surgical steel and bend naturally with the movement of residual fingers. They're simple, lightweight, body-powered, and don't require any electronics or electricity.
The removable devices can be covered in thermoplastic for a lifelike appearance. Depending on the configuration they're sometimes anchored in a wrist strap.
Florida-based Didrick was motivated in part by a desire to help a hearing-impaired person regain sign language ability after losing fingers. He whittled his first concept prototype out of pine wood.
Then he began using 3D design software to refine his invention. Eight years after initial sketches, hundreds of X Fingers are in use today, and Didrick Medical has also produced X Thumbs.
There seems to be a big demand for these simple devices. Citing U.S. Bureau of Labor data, the company says about 8,000 work-related amputations occur each year involving one or more fingers.
Check out this video by an X Fingers user whose grandchildren call him "Robo Man.'
"This progression (to mass production) is no small feat, and it's largely possible because I've been able to do the design work myself in SolidWorks (software)," Didrick says. "This is a significant step for Didrick Medical, and for potential patients who will now have easier access to the X-Finger."
Production costs are high, however, due to individual differences in injury and finger length; the Fingers come in 500 different configurations. Meanwhile, Didrick is trying to help kids and others who have lost fingers in the developing world through his nonprofit World Hand Foundation.