I have already written about the opportunities of robotics and 3D printing in the healthcare sector. But the combination of both can be magical. Open Bionics, a British start-up, is working on developing 3D prostheses that could come directly from Iron Man or Star Wars.

 

Meet the Hero Arm (Source: Open Bionics)

 

The start-up’s mission is to produce affordable 3D pressure prostheses that are about 30 times cheaper than other prostheses on the market. The company uses detailed sensors attached to the skin for this purpose. Similar to certain gesture control products, these sensors respond to the smallest muscle movements and control the hand and fingers. The Hero Arm, a bionic multi-grip arm from Open Bionics, is available for children aged 9 and over.

“So I co-founded open bionics because we wanted to build assistive devices that could enable people to have more freedom and independence. And we wanted these devices to be really affordable. So at the moment, there’s this amazing bionic technology that exists but it’s out of reach for most patients because it’s so expensive. We want to completely change that and make it really accessible and de-marketize a really helpful technology. So at the moment, everything is really exciting at Open Bionics because we’re gearing up to launch we’ve been trialing our bionic hands with children as young as eight.”

Open Bionics’ lightweight construction method uses 3D printing to create the hand of the prosthesis in four separate parts that are individually tailored to the patient. This is made possible by 3D body scans. The prostheses are currently available in private clinics and in the NHS. Both areas spend several million pounds annually on prosthetic services, with Open Bionics also participating in clinical trials for a new pediatric prosthesis to further expand development in this area.

 

Tilly Lockey - Bionic Girl

Tilly Lockey – Bionic Girl (Source: Open Bionics)

 

Open Bionics 3D prostheses cost around £5,000, compared to around £60,000 for comparable prosthetics with controllable fingers. Open Bionics has also signed a licensing agreement with Disney to develop official Iron Man and Star Wars Hero Arms, according to press reports. The goal is for children to be proud of their prostheses. This changes the image of prostheses from a medical device to a bionic hero poor.

3D printing, combined with developments in bionics and robotics, offers a solution that was unthinkable just a few years ago.

 

Post picture: Open Bionics

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