3D printed prosthetic hand wins Dyson Award

Posted on 26 Aug 2015 by Michael Cruickshank

A 3D printed prosthetic hand produced by UK-based company, Open Bionics has won the UK James Dyson Award.

This prosthesis is a radical improvement due to the fact that it can be produced much faster and more cheaply than previous designs.

In order to create one of these new prostheses, Open Bionics uses 3D scanning to build a computerised picture of the area the prosthesis will attach to. This is then fed into a 3D printer that fabricates a fully-customised socket which attaches to the wearer’s arm.

This socket also contains small electrodes which detect muscular impulses, allowing a wearer to control the movements of the hand and fingers.

Through the use of a commercial, off-the-shelf 3D printer, the prostheses made by Open Bionics are planned to be significantly cheaper than existing alternatives.

Currently, it costs between £20,000-£60,000 ($31,546-$94,639) to fit and build a custom prosthesis; however Open Bionics is aiming for a far more affordable price of around £2,000 ($3,155).

The inventor of these new prototype prosthetic hands, Joel Gibbard, developed the approach while studying at Plymouth University.

Alongside the award, he will receive £2,000 ($3,155), which he plans to use to speed up the prototyping process through the purchase of a new 3D printer.

“We’ve encountered many challenges in designing our hands but the reactions of the individuals we help fuels our perseverance to bring them to market. My aim is for Open Bionics to disrupt the prosthetics industry by offering affordable prosthetics for all.” Gibbard said, upon receiving the award.

Pioneering inventor, and namesake of the prize, Sir James Dyson, congratulated Gibbard on his achievement with Open Bionics.

“By using rapid prototyping techniques, Joel has initiated a step-change in the development of robotic limbs. Embracing a streamlined approach to manufacturing allows Joel’s design to be highly efficient, giving more amputees’ access to advanced prosthetics,” he said.

Following this victory, Open Bionics will move into the international stage of the competition, where they will compete against innovative products from around the world.