This company is changing the way we see prostheses. Open Bionics is a UK-based start-up tech company. Its mission is to create affordable 3D printed prostheses. They are about 30 times cheaper than other prostheses on the market. They operate using sensors attached to the skin to detect muscle movements. The muscle movements control the hand and open and close fingers.
“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 teamed up with the National Health Service in the UK. The NHS spends approximately $US75 million per year on prosthetic services.
“I think the coolest thing about this is we’re working really closely with amputees not just designing a solution for them, they’re helping us design the solution. So yeah, I think it’s a really exciting time. In the very near future, we are focusing on our launch of the first 3D printed bionic limb. The cool thing about my job includes seeing people being fitted with bionic limbs for the first time and that’s a really big moment. For young children, they often don’t have access to these devices because they’re not small enough, or they’re just too expensive, so their parents can’t afford to supply them or the NHS cannot afford to supply a patient with it. So, seeing a young child being able to move fingers individually for the first time is really cool.”
Open Bionics is currently working on arms that are straight out of the science fiction universe. Themes from Marvel, Disney, and Star Wars franchises are available. The goal is to make kids feel proud of their prostheses. This changes the image of prostheses from medical devices to bionic arms inspired by characters.
“I am particularly inspired and motivated by the science fiction limbs. So these are bionics arms that come from the science fiction universes they didn’t exist in real life before, they might have existed on a character. So, like, a Disney character. So, like, iron man’s armour. In DsX, the video game, Adam Jensen’s arm. We actually take those character arms, 3D print them, and build them, and give them to amputees. These arms look super stylish, very sleek. They say a lot about your personality and who you are so I find all of that really exciting.”
Open Bionic’s arms take roughly 40 hours to 3D print. The person’s limb is scanned with a tablet. The design of the prosthetic is then planned out. The prosthetic is finally 3D printed. A royalty-free agreement has been formed between Disney and Open Bionics. This means themed designs have even more potential. The company sees a future of making prostheses fashionable and accessible to all.
“The future of prosthetics is low cost, lightweight, multi-grip, really great control. And even further in the future, it’s all about hyper-personalisation.”