Hackberry Hacking: Making 3D Printed Prosthetic Arms By Exiii

Exiii named their revolutionary product the “HACKberry,” after the Hackberry tree. The Hackberry tree has many branches. Likewise, the developers want their design to branch off into many customized designs as the enabling inspiration of solutions to a myriad of problems. They want to “hack” at problems and “grow branches of joy that reach out to users and enable their ideas and efforts to bear fruit (“berries”).

The revolutionary thing about this arm is that it is open source, which means anyone, anywhere, can download this design and make it themselves. It is also editable, so users around the world become collaborators in creating customized designs for their specific needs.

“We will release the design data of HACKberry, our latest 3D-printed bionic hand, as open source for the purpose of speeding up the development through participation of cooperators from all over the world. In addition, we hope that cooperators will deliver this artificial arm to those we cannot reach ourselves due to distance and other constraints,” exiii says.

The HACKberry has already evolved from its predecessor, the handii, with a more flexible wrist, a smaller palm for women, and more battery compatibility options. Exiii wants to continue to evolve their products with the collaboration of users around the world, regardless of their background.

“Through the trial use of HACKberry in the users’ everyday lives, we aim to discover new problems and issues for further improvement.” – vBionic

It was this opportunity to customize designs that created the company vBionic. Often, children do not have access to high-quality prosthetics because they quickly outgrow them, multiplying costs. So, a man in Poland used the exiii HACKberry design to create a child-size 3D-printed hand for his friend’s son.

vBionic aims to make professional solutions available and affordable, including in smaller child sizes. vBionic enables children to use a high-quality prosthetic for such a cost that they can afford to grow out of it. The company is now creating many products to help people that need prosthetics, all inspired by exiii.

Following a post on Reddit, which requested workout regimes for a “soon-to-be” amputee who could not afford a prosthetic hand named Ryan, the Wevolver and Reddit communities pulled together to assemble a HACKberry for Ryan, starting with a 3D printed PLA prototype, before moving on to a more robust aluminium version. 

A Russian maker named Aleksandr Antonov did the aluminium casting, and Hiroshi from exiii sent Wevolver’s Cameron Norris the electrical components for assembly. Thankfully, Ryan’s recovery meant the full hand amputation was eventually cancelled, although he lost multiple fingers in the accident.

This meant the HACKberry was no longer suitable for Ryan, but instead, a prosthetic centre that heard about the project on Reddit and built him a weightlifting attachment to compensate for the lack of fingers. Meanwhile, the unused HACKberry parts were sent to Pikes Peak Makerspace in Colorado, where a team of volunteers built a HACKberry for a young amputee named Delaney.

The DIY availability of the prosthetic arm is overturning the industry in favour of those who are most in need, and it contributes to the individualization of each product for the needs of each user.

“If you’re interested in getting involved with prosthetics, with 3D printed robots, you just do it. A lot of people seem to be looking for permission to get involved, and it’s not like that, it’s always completely open.” – Cameron


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