Cheap, 3D-printed bionic hand is UK Dyson Award winner

Joel Gibbard has been awarded £2,000 for his Open Bionics project, and will go forward to contest the £30,000 international Dyson Award.


A bionic hand for amputees that can be 3D printed at a fraction of the cost of most advanced prosthetics has won the UK leg of this year’s James Dyson Award.

The Open Bionics robotic hand has been developed by 25-year-old Joel Gibbard, a robotics graduate from Plymouth University.

The hand can be 3D printed in 40 hours and costs less than £1,000. According to the competition organisers, advanced prosthetics can cost anywhere between £3,000 and £60,000.

Amputee wearers can control individual finger movement

The hand is assembled from four manufactured parts and according to its designers can perform the same tasks as more expensive prosthetics – such as individual finger movement controlled by electromyographical sensors stuck to the amputees’ skin.

The Open Bionics project saw off a series of competitors to win the Dyson Award UK leg. These include a toolkit to encourage the development of new antibiotics, a kitchen sink system that separates fats, oils and grease from water and a device for collecting wet leaves from the ground.

As the UK winner, Gibbard has received a £2,000 prize, which he says he will spend on a new 3D printer to speed up the prototyping process.

Aim is “to disrupt the prosthetics industry”

Gibbard says: “We’ve encountered many challenges in designing our hands but the reactions of the individuals we help fuels our perseverance to bring them to market.

“My aim is for Open Bionics to disrupt the prosthetics industry by offering affordable prosthetics for all.” 

James Dyson says: “3D printing has been used by engineers as a prototyping tool for decades, but Joel is using it in a new way to provide cheaper, more advanced prosthetics for amputees.

“Bold ideas don’t need to be big budget”

“It shows how bold ideas don’t need a big budget and if successful his technology will improve lives around the world.”

Gibbard will also go forward for the international Dyson Award, for which the prize is £30,000. The shortlist of 20 for the international award will be announced on 17 September and the winner will be announced following that.

A prosthetics project has previously won the international Dyson Award

A prosthetics design also won the 2013 international Dyson Award. The Titan Arm robotic limb, which was developed by a team from the University of Pennsylvania in the USA, scooped the prize.

According to its designers, the Titan Arm costs just £1,250 to create, while current exoskeletons on the market can cost more than £62,000.

Last year’s international Dyson Award winner was the MOM low-cost inflatable baby incubator. MOM was developed by Loughborough University graduate James Roberts and apparently costs just £250 to manufacture, test and transport to its desired location.

Discover more:

Low-cost baby incubator wins James Dyson Award

• Robotic arm scoops £30 000 Dyson Award

• Ten years of the James Dyson Award

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