Dan Didrick designed the world's first active-function artificial finger assemblies specifically for amputees over a two week period using SolidWorks software, available locally from Solidtec Solutions .
The Florida local achieved this feat with no previous engineering experience, relying instead on a week of self-paced tutorials to familiarise himself with the concept of computer-aided design.
Eight years and more than eighty designs later, Didrick’s X-Fingers and X-Thumbs are capable of mimicking natural body parts without the use of electronics.
The criss-crossing surgical steel levers, which put the X in X-Fingers, are actuated by the remaining finger or thumb and covered in thermoplastic for a lifelike look and feel.
Didrick notes that his revolutionary new creations are a far cry from the traditional, flaccid latex appendages that are normally used by amputees to, as he puts it, merely mask the problem. As such, X-Fingers have earned Didrick’s company, Didrick Medical, global recognition.
Hundreds of adult X-Fingers are in use today. Available in 500 different configurations covering five different finger thicknesses, sixteen different lengths and myriad injury profiles, each set of X-Fingers is made to order by Didrick using electric discharge machining (EDM) driven by SolidWorks files.
“When a patient needs X-Fingers, I pick a drawing, save it as STL or IGES, send it to a manufacturer, and it comes back a beautiful part,” Didrick explains, adding that “SolidWorks is one of the most amazing tools I’ve ever used.”
It’s been a long road for the former medical equipment salesman, who has taught himself engineering, patent basics, regulatory relations, manufacturing, and marketing. One thing that came remarkably easy, however, was becoming productive while using SolidWorks software.
Didrick says that SolidWorks has been an important tool for converting his ideas into tangible, real world designs.
“I had the vision in my head and needed a way to make it reality. SolidWorks helped me do exactly that in three weeks. Because of the complexity of the product and of the dynamics of the injured hand, I’ve been unable to find engineers who can help me. So it’s me and SolidWorks. Without SolidWorks, this never could have happened,” he concludes.