Open Bionics, located in Bristol , England, has recently revealed that they now have the ability to produce bionic hands for just £5,000 – a mere fraction of the the usual £60,000 it takes to make one. Britain itself has also started the first clinical trials for 3D printed bionic hands for child amputees. If the trials are a success, Britain’s National Health Service will make these revolutionary devices available to patients, potentially changing lives forever.
The trials centralize in Bristol and are anticipated to be last an estimated 6 months before looking at the results. Open Bionics will lead the movement, having previously pioneered affordable prosthetic limbs for children which were based off of Disney characters. Currently, the National Health Service only offers two rather bland, simple prosthetic hands for those in need that can cost up to £60,000. As Open Bionics founder, Samantha Payne, describes them, “You can get a hook-type prosthetic, which is super primitive, or you can get a gripper prosthetic, which just open and closes. It’s a very simple mechanical action”
Payne founded the company with her business partner Joel Gibbard in 2013. Since starting the company, the two have gone on to win multiple awards, including the prestigious James Dyson Award which honors the most innovative engineering projects in the world. The ability to produce such revolutionary devices was all made possible through the use of 3D scanning and printing technologies. Utilizing these state-of-the-art technologies, Open Bionics’ engineers were able to completely change the prosthetic design and fitting process. Payne provides that,
“Prosthetics have to custom fit every individual user and the software also has to work with them…The big innovation, and how we’re saving money, is by changing the materials that prosthetics are made of [and] by using 3D scanning to take the initial fitting. It takes about two minutes, and we can then build the socket in 24 hours.”
Thanks to a royalty free agreement with Disney, Open Bionics also provides children with the ability to chose their prosthetic hands based off of popular Disney characters from Iron Man, Frozen and Star Wars. The trial, which began just this week, received a £100,000 award from the Small Business Research Initiatives scheme, helping to make all of this possible. According to Payne,
“It was probably our biggest milestone in terms of getting this bionic hand to amputees. If that [trials] goes well and does everything we think it will, we’ll be offered the chance to apply for £1m grant money to roll the product out across all NHS clinics. That’s what we’re hoping to achieve this year. This will be miles ahead for the NHS.”