Around the world, though we might have not noticed, many people are suffering from limb loss. According to the statistics, 1.7 million people in the US are living with limb loss in 2020. The cause of the amputation is mostly due to traumatic accidents (77%), and considering the average age of amputated patients are young people below 21 years old, they are in dire need of supporting devices as they acquired disabilities throughout their lives which means they are not accustomed to their life without a limb or limbs. The electronic prosthetic hand is an excellent remedy for these patients. However, since those prosthetic hands require delicate high technology, the prices often overwhelm patients. According to Northern Virginia medical care institutions, cosmetic prosthetic hands cost an average of $5,000, and up to $10,000 for a functional prosthetic hand. Due to its high price, only 27~44% of amputees in the US own prosthetic hands to support their daily livings. Fortunately, in recent years, there are attempts to lower the price of prosthetic hands by using 3D printing technology. “Mand.ro” is a Korean start-up company which is located in Seoul and Jordan and aims for creating affordable prosthetic hands for amputated patients. Since 2015, Mand.ro has provided customized prosthetic hands for patients at an affordable price.
“There shouldn’t be anyone who cannot afford a prosthetic hand because of money.” This is the slogan of Mand.ro by Sangho Yi, the CEO of Mand.ro. He was originally specializing in 3D printing technology, but when he received a request to manufacture a customized prosthetic hand by 3D printing from his Internet acquaintance who amputated both arms, he realized there were actually a lot of patients who need prosthetic hands but cannot afford it. Today, Mand.ro produces customized high functional prosthetic hands starting from $1,000, which is about 40 times cheaper than pre-existing high functional prosthetic hands. This price setting was possible thanks to the 3D printer which dramatically decreased manufacturing time and costs. Originally, it took 3~4 weeks to create a single pair of a customized prosthetic hands. Mand.ro decreased this time to one week, by using 3D printers to effectively scan and model customer’s amputated limbs. The parts that do not need customization, such as sensors, were produced in a large amount through 3D printers, thus Mand.ro team could only focus on designing and producing delicate parts of hands which decreased the cost of a final product. Also, pre-existing sensor circuits were one of the costly parts which cost up to $800, but Mand.ro developed cost-efficient sensor circuits that only cost about $20 which enables affordable priced prosthetic hands. This way, prosthetic hands made by Mand.ro’s 3D printing technology are light (260~320g), hold up to 4 kilograms of weight, and easy to handle.
Mand.ro’s cost efficient and good quality prosthetic hands were created by following complicated steps of improvement. Mand.ro started its business starting from 2015 by winning the Hackerton competition in Korea by 3D printed prosthetic hands. At this point of time, the products of Mand.ro were just mere prototypes, but by constantly improving the overall structure and technology of prosthetic devices, in 2017, Mand.ro received two financial investments from “Futureplay” and “Tips”, both Korean institutions that support prospective start-ups. Acknowledged Mand.ro’s cost efficient prosthetic devices, Mand.ro was nominated the first prize at 2019 Supernova Challenge, the biggest Middle East electronic devices competition which opened up possibilities of foreign markets for Mand.ro. Mand.ro currently owns 3 patents in 3D printing prosthetic devices including holder-type charger for prosthetic devices which allows users to comfortably charge their devices just like they charge their phones. All these efforts taken by Mand.ro enabled customers to be greatly satisfied with the product they received.
Since its establishment, Mand.ro has been actively engaging in social reinvestment as well. By collecting amputation data from customers, Mand.ro divided types of amputations and prosthetic devices that fit each division into categories. This enabled them to develop different coverage types of prosthetic limbs from hands, wrists, to the entire arm coverage. In 2019, this made it possible for Mand.ro to provide 500 pairs of different types of prosthetic arms to the Middle East medical institutions as there are many amputated patients, especially among Middle East refugees. Also, Mand.ro expects more start-ups to engage in providing cheaper prosthetic devices as they hold 3D printing workshops for developing prosthetic hands and seminars. Sangho Yi, the CEO of Mand.ro interviewed he expects to expand his business to ‘humanoids’ which then will be able to support entire amputation disabilities.
Statistics on hand and arm loss. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com/statistics.html
“만드로 - 3D 프린팅 전자의수 제작기 1부 (20200527).” YouTube, YouTube, 27 May 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDt0MLzW2-U.
“The Complete Guide To Arm & Hand Amputations and Prosthetics: MCOP.” MCOP Prosthetics, 1 Apr. 2020, mcopro.com/blog/resources/arm-hand-prosthetics/.
“A Low-Cost, Light-Weight 3D Printed Prosthetic Hand Maker.” "Mand.ro - A Low-Cost, Light-Weight 3D Printed Prosthetic Hand Maker", mand.ro/#user.
- By Juhye Hong (Academic Affairs Department)