3D printed robotic hand wins international prize

Issue date: 05 November 2014


Open Bionics, a business based in Bristol Robotics Laboratory's Technology Business Incubator, has been awarded second place and $200,000 at Intel's Make it Wearable Challenge.

Founder Joel Gibbard and colleague Sammy Payne pitched their affordable, 3D printed prosthetic hand to a panel of judges at the final of the global competition held in San Francisco.

The award caps an incredible few weeks for the company as Joel was also named 'Founder of the Year' at October's SPARKies awards in Bath and 'Young Design Engineer of the Year' at the British Engineering Excellence Awards.

Joel also recently achieved a world first when he tested the 3D scanned and 3D printed custom prosthetic socket and robotic hand on Daniel Melville, 23, who was born without a right hand.

Although 3D scanning and 3D printing a prosthetic socket has been done before, this is the first time anyone has used the technique to custom fit a 3D printed robotic hand. The socket, which fitted perfectly, took 40 hours to print. This is a dramatic reduction in time and cost for the prosthetics industry and Joel hopes to have an affordable robotic prosthetic on the market next year.

Joel, who particularly wants to develop smaller hands to assist young amputees, says, "It has been an awesome experience learning from business experts and the other teams. We're far more customer focused now and the result is going to be a prosthetic that is perfectly suited to the needs of amputees. With the money we've now won we can complete the development of this device and get these hands on amputees."

Jill Burnett, Innovation Manager at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory's Technology Business Incubator, where Open Bionics is based, said, “Joel has great talent and has worked diligently to reach this point - this award is very well deserved. He's a valued member of our Technology Incubator, working with a friendly and proactive group of young tech businesses and benefitting from wider opportunities generated by our high-profile and multi-disciplinary research activities. Joel's wearable technology is part of a wider story about the huge potential of robotics to assist and improve the lives of citizens. This is a priority area for the BRL, which works closely with partners and businesses across Technology and Healthcare to realise and accelerate these benefits for society and the economy.”

The Technology Business Incubator is a visionary pilot program to stimulate and support technology start-ups. Working with undergraduate, graduate, post-graduates, staff and partner spinout businesses the incubator provides the BRL with up-to-date and detailed understanding of technology start-up needs and enhances the BRL's creative and entrepreneurial culture. It provides valuable input to courses, research and research exploitation.

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