Open Bionics has been on the cutting edge of 3D printed bionic limbs for some time, but only just recently released their first open source model, the Ada hand. Due to the open source nature of this model, the UK firm hopes to see researchers join their developer community to evolve the Ada hand into a prosthetic like none other. In the mean time, Open Bionics has done its own experimenting, turning their 3D printed limb into one of the most dexterous yet.
Outfitted with new grips capable of some pretty powerful grabbing, the Ada hand was programmed to perform a wide variety of movements for picking up and manipulating objects, making it potentially more powerful than existing bionic hands on the market. The team worked on making Ada capable of working with 25 ‘must be able to handle’ items, selected through amputee surveys and academic research. The objects range from those weighing 5 kilos to small marbles and the motions achieved by the limb include: a full open or closed position, a hook, thumbs up and down, pointing with the index finger, a pinch grip, and a tripod grip.
Open Bionics also states in a blog post on the experiments that they’ve given Ada “proportional control”, so that amputees can actually control the power fed to the hand. This allows more precise control over the speed and force of a grip for holding versus squeezing and object. Gestures, like pointing, are meant to provide a more natural appearance for amputees, as well.
This programming is all included in the open source documentation for the Ada hand so that researchers and Makers can build upon the work that Open Bionics has developed for the limb. With more and more people working with this platform, it’s possible that the 3D printed prosthetic will evolve as rapidly as RepRap 3D printers have in the past few years. Soon, we’ll be able to move from simple e-NABLE style prosthetics to fully capable and lifelike limbs for those in need.