From 3D printed wheelchairs to casts that speed healing, the world of prosthetics is exciting. Unfortunately, investing in 3D printed limbs is also expensive, which is why Open Bionics set out to find a way to make a bionic hand quickly and cheaply.
As IFLScience reports, the company recently won the prestigious UK 2015 Dyson Award for its 3D printed artificial limb which can be created in just over 42 hours and costs about $3,000.
As you can see in the video above, the device created by Open Bionics is incredibly unique.
According to CEO Joel Gibbard, it takes two days to scan, print and assemble a custom-fitted socket and hand. Perhaps the best part? It can be done for just £2,000 ($3,000). Most prosthetic arms with moveable fingers cost £20,000 ($31,000) and can take weeks to make.
The lower cost is especially good news for families with a young child who needs a new prosthetic limb after every growth spurt.
Open Bionics is committed to being “open” with its designs, and will be making all the models for its prosthetic limbs open source (free for anyone to use). The company only asks that any alternations made are also made available for free, that way everyone might benefit from this game-changing technology.
How does it work?
The design is modeled on the skeleton of a human hand. The central components make up the skeleton and it is covered with a rubbery, flexible plastic which acts like skin, ensuring the prosthesis is lightweight and robust.
When the wearer flexes their arm, as if to use their phantom limb, electrodes stuck to the skin register the movements and power the bionic hand. Simple movements might be flexing of the inner arm, which closes the hand, and flexing the outer arm, which opens it.
Because wearers are unable to sense objects gripped in the prosthesis, the fingers are instead fitted with sensors that detect when the hand is approaching an object. This limits the strength of the grip, avoiding damage to the object or the hand itself.
There are some limitations to the robotic hand, however. To keep costs low, the team has used lower-cost motors, which means that strength in the hand is lower. But simple, everyday tasks shouldn’t be a problem. The team has been testing the strength on common household objects to ensure this compromise doesn’t prevent users from carrying out day-to-day tasks.