OPEN Bionics has won the 2015 UK James Dyson Award with a 3D-printed robotic hand that it is claimed can be produced more cheaply and in less time than existing alternatives.
Joel Gibbard, who is currently based in Los Angeles and partly supported by Walt Disney’s Techstars Accelerator mentorship and investment programme, launched the concept in Bristol in 2013, raising the first investment by crowdfunding with further support from Bristol Robotics Laboratory.
This could be a major breakthrough in robotic arms as currently prosthetic arms with controllable fingers can cost as much as £60,000 (€82,350) whilst the 3D version, which can be personalised to the wearer, could be available for as little as £2,000 (€2,750). For parents of young children, the savings could be huge as their prosthetics have to be changed regularly as they grow.
At the moment, the fingers are controlled by quite low-cost motors, which means that strength may be a problem, but Mr Gibbard will be testing options in the hope of obtaining a satisfactory balance of cost against strength.
Although the UK prize itself is just £2,200 (€3,020), the publicity will be tremendous and the arm will be entered into the international competition, which brings a greater financial reward.
It is hoped that the arms will go into full production in the second half of 2016 but the altruistic inventor has made this ‘open source’ so that anyone can share and use its designs without charge so long as they report and share any improvements they may make.