3D printer used to create low-cost bionic hand

Joel Gibbard, a young engineer based near Bristol, has designed and built a prototype bionic hand using parts made on a home 3D printer.

Gibbard hopes the project, details of which can be found here, could lead to a low-cost bionic hand for amputees. The prosthetic works much like a human hand, but it uses electric motors instead of muscles and steel cables instead of tendons. 3D printed plastic parts work like bones and a rubber coating acts as the skin. The hand can be connected to an existing prosthesis using a standard connector. It uses stick-on electrodes to read signals from their remaining muscles, which can control the hand, telling it to open or close. The fingers are individually powered and each one can sense when an object is impeding its movement. This gives it the ability to grasp objects gently and means the fingers can really wrap around unusual shapes to grip them firmly. Gibbard hopes to sell the Dextrus hand for around £600, considerably less than other prosthetics currently on the market.