3D-printed prosthetic hand picks up UK James Dyson Award

25 Aug 2015

Image of an Open Bionics 3D printed hand via Open Bionics

Designed by the Bristol-based start-up Open Bionics, the 3D printed prosthetic hand has picked up the top prize in the UK leg of the James Dyson Award, with aims to significantly reduce the cost of prosthetic limbs.

For the last few years, the James Dyson Award has produced some of the most advanced and interesting inventions that aim to make a real difference in the world from across the scientific and technology spectrum.

Now, it has been confirmed that the hand, designed by 25-year-old Joel Gibbard, has won the chance to compete in the world finals of the highly-coveted award, with his advanced design cutting the cost and time needed to create prosthetic limbs.

According to the BBC, the Open Bionics hand uses an array of sensors that pick up myoelectric signals from muscle movements, which are then translated to varying degrees of grip.

This allows the user to pick up items as fragile as an egg without crushing it, despite the user of the prosthetic hand not being able to register how fragile it is.

Originally starting as a Kickstarter project back in 2013, this latest 3D-printed prosthetic hand marks the 10th iteration of the hand and can be created by a 3D printer over a period of 40 hours.

Gibbard said that they are trying to create a limb as close as possible to the £60,000-plus traditional prosthetics, but at a cost of around £2,000 per limb.

“We’re using lower-cost motors than they have in high-end devices, so the overall strength is lower,” Gibbard said.

“So, we are testing it with users and household objects and trying to come to a compromise that means it is very affordable and still has enough power to do most of the stuff that people want.”

For his achievement, Gibbard and the Open Bionics team will take their £2,000 prize fund and compete in the grand final for the chance to win the US$42,000 top prize.

The Open Bionics 3D-printed prosthetic hand joins a number of other 3D-printed hands that have been developed for as little as €100, with charities like eNABLE working to help children overcome difficulties using 3D printing.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic