Bristol start-up Open Bionics will be showcasing its open-source and affordable robotic hands for amputees at the 2015 International CES. The company hopes to revolutionize the prosthetics industry with the use of 3D scanning and 3D printing technology.
Founder Joel Gibbard and colleague Sammy Payne recently won second place and $200,000 in Intel’s Make it Wearable challenge. The team created a prosthetic hand with off-the-shelf parts, including the Intel Edison board in conjunction with their own circuit board to control the hand’s motors and adjust to signals from the amputee wearing the device.
With over 11.4 million amputees world-wide, the need for affordable prosthetics is prodigious and expanding. To date, prostheses have ranged from the expensive and clumsy to the more expensive and robotic.
“The prosthetics market at the moment has a couple of different classes of devices,” explained Gibbard, “You have things like hooks operated by pulleys, and then at the really high end of the market you have really advanced robotic prosthetics.”
Open Bionics plans to bridge this technology gap with a combination of 3D printed parts and innovative engineering.
All of the parts for Open Bionics hands are 3D printed using ABS endurable plastic instead of metals like titanium, which Gibbard points out makes the cost of a hand as low as a British pound.
And Open Bionics is committed to its hardware remaining entirely open-source – meaning available and 3D-printable to the public. The firm’s Dextrus hands have been 3D printed by people in the USA, Canada, Ukraine, Scotland, and Australia.
According to Intel, “The affordability and accessibility speaks volumes about the potential of what low-cost prosthetics could mean to amputees.”
Open Bionics will be demonstrating its robotic hands from the Intel booth at CES (LVCC, Central Hall Booth #7252).
Of CES, Gibbard says, “It’s an incredible opportunity to be on the world stage showing how innovative technologies can be used to change lives and help people. We have a feeling new advancements in the field of wearable technology will be taking center stage this year. It’s going to be an exciting trip.”
Equally exciting to watch: Gibbard’s evolution among robotics entrepreneurs. He has already been named ‘British Young Design Engineer of the Year’ at the British Engineering Excellence Awards, ‘Founder of the Year’ at The Bristol and Bath SPARKies, and has been shortlisted for Semta’s ‘Engineering Hall of Fame’ award sponsored by Rolls Royce and Jaguar.