A 25-year-old British student has invented a 3D-printed robotic hand that could make bionic hands cheaper and faster to make. Joel Gibbard, a graduate student at Plymouth University in England, won the James Dyson award for his innovation today.
The device looks a bit like a superhero arm, and allows patients to control the prosthetic fingers with their muscle movements. The BBC writes:
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.
Watch prototypes of the invention at work here:
Other scientists have invented more advanced bionic hands:
But higher end devices can cost patients up to $95,000, the Independent reports, while Gibbard's inventions cuts that cost down to just under $5,000–not a small amount, but far more accessible than the usual cost, especially for children who need to replace their prosthetics as they grow.
“We’re using lower-cost motors than they have in high-end devices, so the overall strength is lower,” Gibbard told The Hindu. “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,” he said.
The company Gibbard founded, Open Bionics, will continue testing the hand and developing its business model. They're hoping to be selling their inventions by next year. Since last month, Open Bionics is being supported by Disney's Techstars Accelerator program.
Fusion is partly owned by Disney’s ABC network.