A team of 3D printing and bionic prosthetic pioneers based in Bristol UK are participating in study that could lead to the wider use of 3D printing as a tool to help amputees.

The type of bionic hands produced by Open Bionics were deemed too expensive to be made available on the UK’s National Health Service. To assess whether making the hands using 3D printing lowers costs, and is beneficial a new study will be carried out. The trial, in conjunction with North Bristol NHS and SBRI Healthcare, starts this week according to reports.

Depending on the results of the study the 3D printed bionic hands may be available to a wider group of patients within the next few years.

3D printed open bionics prosthetic hand with grips

A 3D printed open bionics prosthetic hand with grips.

The 3D printed hand “looks awesome and also makes you feel confident.”

Open Bionics is working with a trial group of 10 children to assess the benefits of the 3D printed medical devices. One of the children with a prototype Open Bionics hand is Tilly Lockley, who lost her hand after suffering from meningitis. Speaking to the BBC, Tilly said her 3D printed hand, “looks awesome and also makes you feel confident.” Tilly goes on to explain that, “instead of people feeling sorry because you don’t have a hand they’re like, ‘oh my gosh that’s a cool hand’!

Open Bionics estimates there are approximately 2 million hand amputees worldwide. Founded by Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne in 2014, the company has won acclaim and numerous prizes. These prizes include a million dollar award for a 3D printed bionic arm prosthesis which the team won in international category at the UAE Robotics for Good Awards in Dubai earlier this year.

Open Bionics has also worked on the The Phantom Limb project with Sophie de Oliveira Barata of the Alternative Limb Project. Open Bionics worked as robotics consultants to make the Metal Gear Solid inspired hand for James Young. You can read our interview with Sophie de Oliveira here.

James Young photographed by Omkaar Kotedia

James Young photographed by Omkaar Kotedia

Custom 3D printed devices to become standard within 5 years

As previously reported by 3D Printing Industry, North Bristol NHS is also involved with other cutting edge medical applications of 3D printing. Renishaw’s Amy Davey is a member of the Reconstructive Prosthetics team at Southmead Hospital, Bristol, UK and Medical and Dental Products Division at Renishaw.

In an article looking at the future of 3D printing for medical applications, Davey told us how 3D visualisation and custom 3D printed patient devices are likely to become standard practice within the next 5 years.

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