From the communicators from Star Trek evolving into modern flip phones to the robotics and bionic limbs that were regularly used in the Star Wars films, science fiction has always been fertile ground for modern inventors and scientists looking to bring a little of the future into modern times. While Star Wars wasn’t the first science fiction film to include bionic limbs, it was certainly the most popular. A UK startup called Open Bionics is looking to turn Star Wars science fiction into science reality. They made waves last year when they started showing off their affordable bionic arms and hands because their low-cost 3D printed technology could mean hundreds of thousands of arm amputees could finally have two working limbs again.
Open Bionics recently caught the eye of the Disney Accelerator, an investment group that financially supports promising tech startups. They followed up that support by creating a series of Disney, Marvel and Star Wars themed bionic hands for children. While no official plans have been announced for any themed bionic arms for adults, it looks like it won’t only be children who are going to benefit from the Open Bionics partnership with Disney.
With the impending release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens as inspiration, the Star Wars: Force For Change charity has produced a fashion collection designed in a galaxy far far away called Fashion Finds the Force. Naturally the theme of the clothing is Star Wars, and all of the original designs will be auctioned off to benefit UK children’s hospital Great Ormond Street Hospital. Some of the UK-based designers that contributed looks to the charitable auction are Agi & Sam, Bobby Abley, Christopher Ræburn, JW Anderson, Nasir Mazhar, Peter Pilotto, Phoebe English, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi and Thomas Tait.
Among the twenty designs in the show, the standout was clearly a black jumpsuit that has been embedded with more than 10,000 Swarovski crystal studs. The stunning jumpsuit is complemented by a matching 3D printed bionic arm that includes working LED lights. The jumpsuit was created by British fashion designer Claire Barrow, and her inspiration was hyperspace. The glimmering jumpsuit and the matching prosthetic arm with its LED lights add to the effect with a programmable flashing light show that simulates the feel of the Millennium Falcon jumping into hyperspace. And the prosthetic arm isn’t just for show–it is a fully functional bionic arm worn by model Grace Mandeville.
“The hand has individual finger movements – you can point and pinch and move each one independently from each other to make different grip patterns. As Grace Mandeville doesn’t have a forearm, we placed myoelectric sensors on her deltoid muscles on her shoulders to control it,” explained Open Bionics CEO Joel Gibbard.
Check out a brief video of the arm’s hyperspace jump light show:
— Open Bionics (@openbionics) December 3, 2015
As with all of the Open Bionic prosthetic limbs, the Star wars themed arm is extremely lightweight and remarkably affordable. Some traditionally manufactured bionic limbs can cost as much as $100,000, but the Open Bionic arms typically cost between $3,000 and $6,000. While that isn’t exactly pocket change, it opens up the possibility of getting a working bionic limb to thousands of people who would never have been able to afford one before. While the Open Bionic arms are not currently available for sale, Gibbard estimates that they should be commercially available within a year.
Despite the low cost, Open Bionic arms are just as usable and customized as their far more expensive counterparts. The wearer’s arm is 3D scanned so the prosthetic hand or arm can be matched to the length of the existing limb and to make sure that the fit of the socket is comfortable. Then, in just about 48 hours, the arm can be completely 3D printed and assembled. As with anything 3D printable it can be customized to suit the needs or taste of the person wearing it. The idea is to transform what has traditionally been just an assistive device into a fashionable accessory that many people may not even realize is a prosthetic limb.
“People just think it’s a glove. In some ways that’s flattering, it suggests it’s realistically formed… We want to create something that’s really fashionable and cool and interesting; but that shows off the wearer’s limb difference rather than just fitting in. This was a great opportunity to experiment with that,” said Gibbard.
All of the designs are currently being auctioned off by Star Wars: Force For Change and while US-based Star Wars fans may not be able to purchase any of the UK designs, a US-based version of the show is in the works. The Star Wars Force 4 Fashion launched today and will be on display at New York’s flagship Bloomingdale’s store. The US fashion show will include designs by Cynthia Rowley, Diane von Furstenberg, Giles Deacon, Halston, Opening Ceremony, Ovadia & Sons, Parker, Rag & Bone, Timo Weiland, and Todd Snyder who will each create a Star Wars themed outfit to be be auctioned off to benefit the Child Mind Institute. Discuss this story in the 3D Printed Star Wars Arm forum on 3DPB.com.