3D printed prosthetic hands and arms have received quite a lot of media attention over the past year or so. These custom fabricated devices can be created for a fraction of the cost that typical prostheses usually sell for, and they are can be created on a one-to-one basis, completely custom to their wearer. One startup, which has really been making a name for themselves within the custom 3D printed prosthesis space is Open Bionics.
In January, Open Bionics, based in the Bristol Robotic’s Laboratory’s Technology Incubator, stunned the crowds at CES with what they referred to as the “World’s most advanced” 3D printed robotic hand. Those on hand at the event who had the chance to “shake” the hand, donned by Daniel Melville, said it felt like the real thing. While this was an incredible innovation on behalf of Open Bionics, the group hasn’t stopped there. Now the company has done it again, this time focusing not only on functionality but aesthetics as well.
The recipient of their latest prosthetic arm is actress and Youtube star, Grace Mandeville. This 3D printed prosthetic arm is unlike anything we have seen before, as not only is it a fully functional device, but it is a thing of beauty.
“We printed Grace a socket and robotic hand in three days and because 3D printing is so affordable we can add Swarovski crystals and create something really eye-catching that will not break the bank,” Open Bionics COO Samantha Payne tells 3DPrint.com. “We also added four fibre optic wires to the socket so that whenever Grace closes her hand, a blue light would shoot up her 3D printed arm.”
As you can see in the photos, Grace’s hand is covered in crystals, and is very elegant looking. Could this be the future of prosthetic devices?
“I really love fashion, and therefore dress to illustrate my personality, so being able to wear a creative prosthetic that shows who I am seems awesome — it’s like a one off accessory that nobody else can wear, basically like vintage Chanel,” Grace explained. “You should be proud of what makes you different, and I think being able to wear a fun looking prosthetic is something to be proud of! You’re basically saying to the public ‘my arm’s cool and I know’.”
The idea behind Graces’s arm was to show off the possibilities for prostheses within the 3D printing space. Open Bionics wanted to show that prostheses can be functional and fun at the same time. In creating this new arm, the company used a completely new socket design, and placed EMG sensors above the elbow. This allows Grace to control her hand by using the muscle signals from her back.
“We’ve been told a lot by amputees that they want something that will get a compliment not a strange stare, something far away from a ‘flesh’ coloured prosthetic,” Payne told us.
Certainly Mandeville’s arm is something of beauty and fashion, something that requires a double take, not for the fact that she is missing a limb, but for the fact that her new limb is more beautiful than anyone else’s. Grace’s sister Amelia Mandeville also agreed with this, asking, “Who wants to be the same?”
In a world where people tend to follow fashion trends, it is refreshing to see Grace and Open Bionics stepping up and saying, “Look at me! I’m different, and I’m beautiful!”.
“Why try to blend in, when you can have a piece of art?” Grace asked. “I feel like a warrior with it, I feel proud to wear a prosthetic.”
At the unveiling of the new prosthetic arm, at the Wearable Technology Show in London, many onlookers and attendees thought that Grace actually was not missing an arm but was instead wearing some sort of fashionable sleeve, trying to make a fashion statement.
“I had to keep pulling my arm out and showing people that I wasn’t wearing some kind of glove, but an actual bionic arm,” she explained. ““I found the hand really easy to operate, I tried it on for the first time Monday and I could control the hand straight away.”
So much for traditional prosthetic devices! Grace actually has owned a traditional prosthesis for much of her life, but admits that she hardly wears it simply because she doesn’t feel she needs to. With that said, she does plan to wear this much more elegant design, thanks to the team at Open Bionics.
“This is another design iteration after our success at CES,” Payne explained. “We’re very agile and when we’re told by amputees about what they’re looking for, we listen and try to meet those design challenges. Grace wanted a light, fashionable piece of tech. Grace sees prosthetics as fashion accessories and as an optional add on to add something extra to an outfit. So, we hope we met that expectation”
As for Open Bionics, they plan to begin selling 3D printed robotic prostheses within the next year. What do you think about this incredibly beautiful 3D printed robotic arm? Discuss in the 3D printed Open Bionics arm forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out some more photos provided to us by Open Bionics below.