As a youngster, I was involved in an accident that destroyed the muscle development on the right side of my body.
My father had taken me to join my uncles on the field to spend the day harvesting cotton. Working away, no one spotted the the remnants of a tree that had fallen into the crop. As we drove over, the cotton picker tipped and fell on top of me.
As a result, a major nerve in my right shoulder has been severely pinched and prevented natural growth.
The physical damage is the most visible, but the emotional struggles have been the greatest challenge. I've decided I will no longer allow it to hinder who I am but rather work on creating a unique me.
I am designing and building a hand attachment that will improve the functionality to my right hand. This project is driven by design. I want it to be beautiful and different. I want it to stand out and spark discussion. This isn't about going back to what it was but moving forward and creating something new.
Rather than make something new and in each iteration and with the aid of 3D printing, I’ve been updating aspects of the design. The project is far from done and as you can tell from the photo below, evolving each build has been a great way to grow on my small successes.
Rather than start with a fresh set for each post as i have in the past, I’m taking what I’ve already created and adding on it for each new shoot. You may notice this green infinity symbol making its appearance in several of my photos I’ve used before and on the ‘gram.
I’ve liked the infinity symbol so much so that I’ve even adapted it into a personal brand. Looking at the sideways eight on my wall, I noticed my initials and created this monogram. The natural next step? Put it on a hat that should be arriving in a few days.
As the end of the year approaches and I evaluate my accomplishments over the past twelve months, I’ve certainly made some headway on my project from a functional perspective, been involved in some great events and gained more clarity for the larger vision of where all of this leads.
I put pen to paper and started sketching. Sketching different variations of what Devin had initially designed for me, until I came up with the infinite loop idea.
The original version Devin created.
I’ve been working with Devin for a couple iterations now. I met him through the Toronto Tool Library. The Library is well aware of my hand project — because I’ve printed many iterations there — and from time to time I get a referral from them. After getting his contact details, I got in touch and showed him what I’d worked on. He immediately had ideas and we went from there.
Devin is an engineer with great technical mindset and vision. He took what I’ve created to date and using his wisdom made it both simpler and better. Having him work on the technical side of things has freed up my time to take what he creates and and an element of design. To add my brush strokes and tell the story.
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The core of his initial design was having three prongs following the bone structure of my hand. I drew these on the page and played. Having a tendency to connect and simplify when I design, I realized I could join the whole device with one line. Hence, the infinite loop.
A while ago a gentleman from the UK reached out to share his story with me. He’d been in a motorcycle accident that left him with an injury to his right hand. An injury very similar to mine: we both aren’t able to open our right hand at the knuckle joints.
Rather than start from scratch, he hired a team of specialists who created him a custom solution. Take a look at the photos below to see how it works.
photos provided by Anton Truhan
What’s great about his splint is that it is low profile and simple. Unlike the exoskeleton that I’ve been working on, his has very little moving parts and generally the more moving parts, the more that can go wrong.
So rather than continue further down the road with my exoskeleton, I decided to switch lanes and try make my own version of his splint. I put it together, tried it out and it looks like it works for me too.
Watch the video below to see the results of my latest creation.
In the last version of my hand project, I had the exoskeleton to a point where it could fully open and close with my hand.
This time I included a few hooks in the design so that I can add an elastic that pulls back on my finger. It does a good job below the middle joint but in the next version I need to get it to pull the whole finger back and open.
The song in my video — Crawl Before You Ball by Saafir — really explains how I feel this project is going.
It’s been a little over a year since I’ve started working on my hand project and up until now it’s simply been a part time effort. It is something I have been working on in my free time after work and on weekends. I’d consider it more of a hobby project but I’ve been persistent and it’s paid off. Through a series of circumstances, my story made its way into the halls of the CBC who picked it up as an interest piece for their evening news.
What this taught me was that if I focus on doing great work, good things will find me.
Because of the exposure my project got on the news I’ve had people reach out to me. One of those was Hargurdeep Singh or Deep for short. Deep is currently studying at Seneca college for mechanical engineering and is heavily involved with many organizations throughout the GTA. He is also involved with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers who just so happens to be running a 3D printing challenge right now. The I AM 3D Challenge is meant to encourage undergraduates to push the limits of what 3D printing can do. Deep along with his team and advisors approached me because they believed in my story and the possibilities this project could have for the competition.
The collaboration begins
This past week Deep and his team came by my place to begin working together. They showed up with several cases of fancy equipment that they set up to get a proper 3D scan of my hand. I had no clue what most of it did which is why I’m glad I now have someone helping me on the technical side while I get to focus on the aesthetics.
They are now printing out a copy of this model and use it to work off of. I am excited to see what they can come up with.
If you look at the laptop screen you will see the scan of my hand.
I have a hard wired need to constantly produce. I feel like if there isn’t an end product, I am not being productive. I think it comes from my father and his father before him. They couldn’t just walk somewhere, they would run. If they needed a tool on the other side of the garage it was a sprint. As a family, all 8 of us once packed in our pickup truck and sped up to Northern Canada for a weekend vacation only to rush back home again. It’s ironic. I know. I’ve noticed this in myself in many ways, my hand project included.
I spent a good portion of my time trying to figure out what exactly had happened to my body as a result of the accident. But I also spent most of last year creating random versions. Experiments really. I felt the need to constantly create something rather than have any direction. However, after all of last years experiments, I decided to go down the route of building an exoskeleton upon which to build the functionality.
I’ve created two versions up till now and spent all of this week designing the third. It hasn’t taken me all week to create the third version, I’ve been playing around. Putting on the previous exoskeleton and playing around with it. Seeing how it feels when I move my finger. How it fits. What elements can I improve.
In the back of my mind I thought I could get a new version done in one night. But looking back at my work this week in my sketchbook, I’m glad I didn’t rush it. I think I’ve come up with a simplified solution that solves problems I’ve had up until now.
The final files that’ve been sent of to the printer. Far fewer parts than the previous versions.