Fantastic Plastic Hand

24-year-olf engineer and Open Bionics founder Joel Gibbard was at Plymouth University (UK) studying robotics when he decided to explore the concept of robotic hands and make robotic prosthetic hands more accessible to amputees. Leading prosthetics can indeed cost up to 80,000 euro.  By using emerging technologies like 3D printing, costs can be cut down to under 900 euro, meaning that these devices can reach a far broader audience!

Such a prosthetic hand detects muscle movements via sensors stuck to the owner's skin and uses them to control its grip.  A single flex of the wearer's muscles opens and closes the fingers, while a double flex changes the shape to form a pinch grip. Although the user cannot feel what the fingers are touching, sensors built into the digits can tell when they come into contact with an object to limit the pressure they exert. 

The hand offers much of the functionality of a human hand. It uses electric motors instead of muscles and steel cables instead of tendons. 3D printed plastic parts work like bones and a rubber coating acts as the skin. All of these parts are controlled by electronics to give it a natural movement that can handle all sorts of different objects.

Gibbard has so far created 10 working prototypes and is currently 3D modelling the 11th with his team of three. He aims to have a wireless, fully integrated hand in six months that is ready for intensive field testing. 

The 3D-printed bionic hand designed by prosthetics start-up Open Bionics is the recipient of the 2015 UK James Dyson Award for design engineering innovation.  
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