Prosthetics continue to make major news in the 3D printing community, and the next wave integrates robotics thanks to the crowd-source-funded Open Bionics. In what appears to be a world premiere application, Open Bionics successfully printed a functional prosthetic for an individual born without his right hand and much of his forearm. Daniel Melville was born without a right hand and received the prosthetic after volunteering. His family backed the project started by Open Bionics founder, Joel Gibbard. What happened as a result of 3D scanning and 40 hours of 3D printing is simply stunning.
The first model out of the printer fit perfectly. Fitted to muscle signals by engineer Olly McBride, Daniel freely gripped objects and hands much to everyone’s delight. Daniel said, “It fitted like a glove. I can’t believe how easy that was. Usually, I’d have to have a mold taken of my arm and then wait weeks or months to get the socket. Last time I had a socket mold on my arm they burnt me taking it off, so this is much nicer.”
Ever the perfectionist, Joel hopes to continue improving his design and application in the future. One area that he sees design potential is with robotic prosthetics for children. Daniel expressed his regret that he did not have an affordable option or design that helped emotionally with his condition. He lamented, “This is great now and it will continue to get better but it would have been amazing to have this when I was younger. I would have loved a 3D printed Power Ranger hand. It would have made me feel better about my difference, I think. There are robotic hands out there that I can buy now but they’re more expensive than my car. Who can afford that?”
This is precisely the issue Open Bionics hopes to address. Their process and ability aims to curb costs and allow a larger customer base the opportunity to take advantage of 3D printed robotic prosthetics. With this revolutionary step forward, it is no wonder Open Bionics, based out of Bristol Robotics Laboratory, is one of the leading centers for robotics in the world and shortlisted for Tech Awards. The schedule to have their prosthetic on the market by next year certainly inspires hope and excitement for all those potentially affected by their innovation.