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3D-printed prosthetic Iron Man hand not grown, built

A child-sized 3D-printed prosthetic hand packs in LEDs for a light-up thruster, Bluetooth, an Arduino and options for a whole bunch of cool Iron Man tech.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Well, sure, you could have a 3D-printed prosthetic hand with Wolverine claws, but when you think about it, another superhero makes much more sense: Iron Man. With his high-tech suit, an Iron Man hand is ripe for packing in some gadgetry to make a prosthetic hand so much more.

That's what animator, artist and mechanical engineer Pat Starace figured when he set about designing a child-sized prosthetic hand.

"How can we help a child that faces everyday challenges with a disability? My answer is to give them the most awesome prosthetic hand, and raise their self esteem to Super Hero Levels," he wrote. "The vision was to create a hand, so that a child can have something that solves a mechanical challenge, is affordable, and mostly Looks Awesome!"

Unlike the Wolverine hand, which used one of the designs from e-NABLE, Starace decided to develop his own hand along several principles: it had to look great, it had to perform fantastically, and all the bungees usually seen in low-cost 3D-printed prosthetic hands had to be hidden from view.

Pat Starace

The result is a hand that would not look out of place in Tony Stark's armoury, packed with gadgets -- and with space to build. On the back of the hand is a hinged gold shield; when the wearer closes their hand, it opens, and lights inside act as lasers for play; while in the palm, an array of LEDs mimics the lights of the superhero's thrusters -- if not the function.

The prototype is also equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy, an Arduino, a battery and charging port compatible with USB -- but Starace noted that there's certainly room for more -- such as gyroscopes, voice control, an accelerometer, magnetometer, even a smart watch.

According to 3DPrint, it took around 48 hours to fabricate on a Deezmaker Bukobot -- and that's not including the time it took to design the hand, remove the support material and assemble it with electronics intact. The good news is that Starace is inviting parents to contact him if their child is in need of a hand like this -- and soon makers will be able to create their own. The designer has plans to release the files for anyone to use after he gets the hand out of the prototype stage.