Additive Manufacturing Strategies

The Impact Project: Multi-Collaborative Work Results in 3D Printed Bionic Hand

ST Medical Devices

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Designers for the Impact Project have made a bionic hand in just ten hours. Driven by embedded electronics, this novel device was completely 3D printed and grips objects with a moveable thumb.

The hand can be made to measure—offering a customized fit for users able to look forward to functionality with muscle sensors and an articulated thumb. A choice of colors is available too—with aesthetics being far more important than others may realize due to the level of self-consciousness many amputees or those born without limbs feel; in fact, it takes a special prosthetic to convince users to wear them regularly in many cases due to issues with comfort, style, and of course—true functionality.

The Impact project is a multi-collaborative effort led by Iterate Design + Innovation, Ltd., in partnership with WMG, University of Warwick, C Enterprise (UK) Ltd., and Printed Electronics Ltd. Innovate UK granted nearly £900,000 to the project, aiming to further 3D printing innovation in combining polymers with integrated electronics.

The design for the Impact hand was inspired by a previous prosthetic made by Ben Ryan, of Ambionics. His son lost his forearm due to required amputation after birth, and Ryan engineered a limb replacement for him. Impact designers have built on the innovative foundation Ryan created, adding the embedded circuitry to allow for muscle sensors.

Photo credit: Iterate UK/Ambionics

Photo credit: Iterate UK/Ambionics

The WMG engineers and the University of Warwick tested the bionic hand for durability regarding the continued bending and flexing, along with creating a website so individuals can order their own after inputting their measurements and choice of color.

“WMG is delighted to be a partner in the IMPACT project, helping to deliver this innovative and revolutionary technology, which is undoubtedly helping put UK PLC at the forefront of 3D Printing research and development globally,” said Dr. Greg Gibbons of WMG University of Warwick.

Other input included:

  • Design and integration of circuits by Iterate Design and Innovation Ltd.
  • 3D printing technology for circuitry by Printed Electronics Ltd.
  • Development of multi-axis, multi-material 3D printer for the fabrication of the bionic hand by C Enterprise (UK) Ltd.

“The IMPACT project has resulted in the creation of an exciting new technology that has the ability to print electro-mechanical parts and assemblies, which weren’t previously possible. Through laying down conductive ink tracks within polymer structures means that parts produced are fully functional straight off the machine bed; offering huge productivity benefits,” said Gethin Roberts, Project Lead and MD of Iterate Design + Innovation.

Over time we have seen many different 3D printed prosthetics, especially as designers and engineers are concerned about developing countries in need of such devices. Gradually, many of these devices have progressed to include electronics and bionics with varying degrees of functionality, creative aesthetics, and much more.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source / Image: University of Warwick]

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