3D-printed hand wins Dyson award

Up to 6,000 major limb amputations are carried out every year, and research shows that amputees can struggle to adapt to their injury. The cumbersome look and feel of current prosthetics has been proven to contribute to depression and anxiety that many amputees experience.

Advanced prosthetics can cost anything from £3,000 to £60,000, and even the most expensive prosthetic limbs can withstand only three to five years of wear and tear.

“3D printing has been used by engineers as a prototyping tool for decades, but Joel is using it in a new way to provide cheaper, more advanced prosthetics for amputees.’ James Dyson.

Open Bionics uses 3D printing to make low-cost robotic hands. An entire hand can be printed and assembled in just four manufactured parts, produced in around 40 hours and costs under £1,000. The robotic hands can perform the same tasks as advanced prosthetics, including individual finger movement through the use of electromyographical sensors which are stuck to the amputee’s skin.

The UK engineering prize includes a £2,220 reward and the chance to compete for an international title worth 28,600.

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The design engineer behind Open Bionics is Joel Gibbard, a 25-year-old robotics graduate from Plymouth University. He said: “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.”

The James Dyson Award runs in 20 countries and is open to university level students and recent graduates studying product design, industrial design and engineering.

James Dyson said: “3D printing has been used by engineers as a prototyping tool for decades, but Joel is using it in a new way to provide cheaper, more advanced prosthetics for amputees. It shows how bold ideas don’t need a big budget and if successful his technology will improve lives around the world.’

Open Bionics and the UK national runners up will progress to the next stage of the James Dyson Award: engineer shortlisting. Dyson engineers will whittle down 100 entries from around the world down to just 20. The results of this stage will be announced on 17 September 2015. The international winner will be awarded £30,000 to develop their invention.

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