Award Date

August 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)


Mechanical Engineering

First Committee Member

Mohamed B. Trabia

Second Committee Member

Brendan O'Toole

Third Committee Member

Hui Zhao

Fourth Committee Member

Zhiyong Wang

Fifth Committee Member

Gabriele Wulf

Number of Pages



It has been demonstrated that although many varieties of upper limb prosthetics exist, commercially available prosthetics are outdated and unsatisfactory. Ineffectiveness and limitations have led to some prosthesis wearers having to own multiple devices, whereas others have given up on them entirely. Even though ample research has been conducted to design and test new hand designs, the industry appears to rest in an overall stagnated state.

It was proposed here, that one problem with prosthetic research is an excess of variables involved in testing, and therefore the improper application of the scientific method. It seems that each time a research team desires to test a new idea, a completely new hand and system is designed to house it. A costly and time-consuming cycle is then initiated which may lead to comparing the merits of one hand to the performance of distinct hand designs with multiple differences. Since these comparisons involve multiple variables, the results are often inconclusive and many projects end up shelved.

To help advance prosthetic improvement, it seems necessary to unclog the process by lowering costs, speeding up development, and implementing an improved basis for comparison. The proposed method for achieving the first two objectives is to make use of a 3D printed hand platform. Such prosthetics are durable, inexpensive, and quick to manufacture and assemble. This allows for rapid transition from idea to prototype, and from observation to improvement. The method for improving comparison is the addition of modularity into the prosthetic. If a single hand could be reconfigured to implement different attributes and ideas, the merit of each innovation could be independently demonstrated and verified.

In this research, a 3D printed hand was chosen which could accommodate configurations capable of adding adaptation as well as a resting state of partial curvature to the basic hand. The various configurations, including neither, each, and both changes were then tested in a series of experiments. These were arranged to discover the maximum weight that could be sustained while the hand attempted to maintain grasp on various bar shapes. These tests were run in two different test setups: attached to a non-amputee’s arm and suspended by clamps, in order to determine the influence introduced by the limitations of human strength and physiology. These rounds of testing successfully demonstrated that small modifications to the prosthetic could yield improvements in performance (even with a basic, low-cost hand), and that the merit of various ideas can be independently demonstrated on a singular platform.


3D Printed; Modular; optimization; Prosthetic; terminal device; Upper limb


Biomechanical Engineering | Biomechanics | Biomedical | Biomedical Devices and Instrumentation | Biomedical Engineering and Bioengineering

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit