This Customizable Bionic Arm Turns Disabilities Into Superpowers

This robotics company created the world's first medically certifiable & customizable 3D printed arm.

Open Bionics is a Bristol based startup and its mission is to create and democratize technology that enhances the human body. In other words, they turn disabilities into super powers. The Hero Arm is their first bionic product, and it's the first medically certified, affordable, 3D printed bionic hand. It's got a multi grip hand with four motors inside controlling individual fingers and moving the thumb.

The Hero Arm works by picking up signals from a user's muscles. It has sensors on the inside of the socket and they sit on top of the muscles and detect a small voltage when the muscles are flexed and the hand will move in response.

Dan Melville, Open Bionics tester and ambassador said, “I didn't think this kind of technology could be possible, especially low-cost. it's just crazy, especially what I can do with the arm compared to what I could do with it three years ago. But even back then, that was still mad.”

The first thing that happens is a prosthetist will get a model of their arm, which could be physical or digital from a 3D scan. It's fed into software algorithms to create the bespoke Hero Arm for each individual person, and they then export the files for the 3D printers, 3D print them and then assemble everything together into that person's Hero Arm. 

One of the things that Open Bionics is most proud of is the fact that you can change the look and style of the arm. They have a customizer so users can design their own arm and change the colors. It's an expression of individuality and it means that you have choice over the way that your prosthesis looks.

"We much prefer the kind of prostheses that we're making which don't pretend to look like a human limb, and they're saying you're unique, you're different and that's brilliant, you should celebrate that. Same way like the glasses I'm wearing today, I wouldn't wear skin colored glasses frames that try and look like eyes, it's totally ridiculous to even consider that,” says Open Bionics CEO Joel Gibbard.  

And for Dan: “People's eyes light up and it's just nice to have questions like how does this arm work as opposed to what happened to you kind of thing.”

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