- Chris Morris
- Jun 16, 2017
- 1194 Views
A major new clinical trial for prosthetic hands may see them available on the NHS in the foreseeable future.
The so-called bionic hands are available via 3D printing, and can be delivered at a small cost in comparison to current models.
Bristol-based firm Open Bionics is working with 10 children at a local hospital during the six-month trial.
And the name of the company has led many to describe the product as bionic hands.
Tilly Lockey, an 11-year-old from Durham who lost her hands after she developed meningitis as a baby, told the BBC that her prototype prosthetic hand “looks awesome and it makes you feel confident. Instead of people thinking they feel sorry for you because you don’t have a hand, they’re like: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a cool hand!’”
The cost of the new product is £5,000, and it can be delivered in just 24 hours via cutting-edge 3D scanning and printing techniques.
Considering that prosthetics currently cost of the region of £60,000, it is obvious that this new approach could be hugely beneficial.
Four separate intricate parts are built by the 3D printer, and the ultimate design is also noticeably lightweight.
Patients can have the hand manufactured to their personal specifications by using scans of the anatomy.
Sensors attached to the skin detect the user’s muscle movements, which can be used to control the hand and open and close the fingers.
And the company has already made an agreement with the Disney Corporation, which is royalty-free, meaning that prosthetics can be based on characters from the famous movies.
The aforementioned Tilly’s hand is themed on the Playstation game Deus Ex.
In order to deliver the technology, Open Bionics has received a £100,000 award from the Small Business Research Initiatives scheme to fund the trial.
The company is working closely with North Bristol NHS hospital trust in order to develop the new technology.
Already Open Bionics has received accreditation for its achievements, having received the prestigious James Dyson award for innovative engineering back in 2015.
Should the trial be successful, the company will be able to apply for a grant of £1 million to deliver the product at NHS clinics across the country.
3D printing uses a computer to produce objects from very thin layers of material.
Doctors hope the technique may eventually help provide affordable prosthetic limbs to around 30 million people worldwide.