Invention Of The Week? British Engineer Develops Low-Cost Advanced Robotic Hand

It is estimated that there are nearly 11.4 million hand amputees worldwide, and most people simply can’t afford the hefty price-tag for a prosthetic hand.

At present, the cost for a prosthetic hand ranges from $30,000.00 to $80,000.00 (USD), but a British inventor is hoping to change all that with his new, low-cost robotic hand.

Joel Gibbard, an engineer who hails from Plymouth, UK, is the founder and CEO of Open Robotics, and he has invented a robotic prosthetic hand with 3D-printed materials.

British Engineer Develops Low-Cost Advanced Robotic Hand.British Engineer Develops Low-Cost Advanced Robotic Hand.

He has developed a fully working prototype and has big plans to launch it on the market soon. While prosthetics are massively expensive, his is unique in that they will each sell for around $800.00.

What’s even more special with his invention is that it is the first of its kind that utilizes motors and steel cables that enables efficient movement.

“The motivation for this was seeing really advanced prosthetics,” says Gibbard. “They’re very expensive so I thought I would create one using my robotics experience and a 3D printer. I want to make it in a way that is cost effective but still profitable.”

“Money is not my goal with this… I want to make it more accessible for amputees,” he adds.

His robotic prosthetic hand is now featured on the 2015 James Dyson Awards website. His invention earned him the Best Product Innovation Award at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, and it has been short-listed for this year’s Nesta’s Inclusive Tech Prize.

Joel Gibbard, an engineer who hails from Plymouth, UK, is the founder and CEO of Open Robotics, and he has invented a robotic prosthetic hand with 3D-printed materials.Joel Gibbard, an engineer who hails from Plymouth, UK, is the founder and CEO of Open Robotics, and he has invented a robotic prosthetic hand with 3D-printed materials.

“The design utilizes soft robotics to take advantage of an extremely lightweight and low-cost manufacturing process and completely disrupt the prosthetics industry,” says Gibbard.

“The hand is 3D printed in a flexible material which means an entire hand can be created with just four manufactured parts. This reduces assembly time without compromising on design, since the hand can have a fluid and natural external appearance and can be printed in any color. The use of a flexible material makes the hand extremely robust to falls and knocks as the entire device is mechanically compliant.”

While the design is bio-mimetic, he is now on the hunt to gather materials that would mimic bones, ligaments and skin within the hand. The hand is controlled by EMG sensors that are connected with an amputees’ skin.

“An amputee will flex their residual muscles to open and close the fingers,” he explains. The amputee can double flex a muscle to change the hand’s grip pattern and perform a fine pinch grip.”

So, what’s the next step for Gibbard’s invention?

First thing is getting it on the market, and then he plans to soon have a “wireless, fully integrated hand in six months that is ready for intensive field testing.”

The potential of this breakthrough is revolutionary and brings mobility, dexterity, and flexibility back in the lives of amputees.