Open Bionics Meets Metal Gear Solid


Open Bionics has created a custom 3D printed bionic hand for an avid one-handed gamer.

Open Bionics in collaboration with The Alternative Limb Project for James Young sponsered by Konami. The Phantom Limb photographed by Omkaar Kotedia. 

Open Bionics in collaboration with The Alternative Limb Project for James Young sponsered by Konami. The Phantom Limb photographed by Omkaar Kotedia. 

The hand, printed in a flexible material, took just over 24 hours to print on a desktop Ultimaker 3D printer, and was programmed to perform six different actions.    

The Phantom Limb project, commissioned by Metal Gear Solid makers Konami, is a collaboration of artists, makers, engineers, and roboticists that set out to fuse medical technology with the world of video games. 

James Young wears The Phantom Limb.  Photo by Omkaar Kotedia.

James Young wears The Phantom Limb.  Photo by Omkaar Kotedia.

Open Bionics was approached by producer Sophie de Oliveira Barata of the Alternative Limb Project as robotics consultants to make the prosthetic hand, inspired by Metal Gear Solid, truly bionic.

This bionic limb of the future has been given to James Young, an avid amputee gamer who helped design the arm. You can see a video of James being interviewed about his new prosthesis here on our Facebook page

The Phantom Limb bionic hand is a functional prosthesis that has been designed to match James' existing hand and programmed to perform diverse grip patterns.

The video (below) shows how James can control his 3D printed hand using his back muscles. 

Su-Yina Farmer, European Communications Manager, at KONAMI said:  “It has been fascinating and a pleasure to work with Open Bionics, on The Phantom Limb Project. Working in collaboration with alternative prosthetic artist Sophie De Oliveira Barata, KONAMI set out to create a bespoke prosthetic arm, inspired by the hugely popular video game series Metal Gear Solid, for gaming fan James Young.

Open Bionics were a great fit for the project, as they combined bionic technology with 3D printing – an increasingly accessible and adaptable technology, which enabled us the flexibility and scope to design a prosthetic arm that was uniquely functional for James, with a visual affinity to the Metal Gear Solid world. The Open Bionics team were keen to explore new ways of adapting their bionic hand technology to James and the project’s needs, resulting in a truly bespoke design.

We hope that James’ amazing bionic arm will help change perceptions of disability, as well as inspire people as to what can be done with technology and prosthetics, and we can’t wait to see what Open Bionics work on next.” 

Samantha Payne, Open Bionics' co-founder, said: "The hand is a myoelectric prosthesis. This means EMG sensors read muscle activity beneath James' skin. This activity, which James' controls via muscle tension, signals to the hand which grip pattern to use. Essentially, James can tell the hand what to do by squeezing his shoulder muscles. Depending on how James is squeezing his shoulder muscles, he call tell the hand to perform five different programmed actions including opening and closing the fingers, pointing, and using a tripod grip. It is so exciting to see prosthetics like this come to life."

Jonathan Raines, Open Bionics’ lead mechanical engineer, said: “This project was interesting because it was the first time we worked to create a specific look for a hand. Working with James was also a highlight. He takes all the weirdness of having electrodes stuck to him and plaster cast over his shoulders in his stride. We have to give a shout out to Fenner Drives for supplying us with NinjaFlex in a colour that wasn’t even available in the UK too, thanks team.”  

Open Bionics is based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory; the biggest robotics lab in the UK. The startup has been experimenting over the past year with the idea of what bionic limbs could look like and what functions they should perform.

Last year the team produced this Swarovski covered bionic arm that lit up at night with fibre optics, before producing superhero prosthetics for kids that have superhuman functionality. The hero arms and hands light up, make sounds, and can ‘fire’ repulsor blasters and lightsabres.

Open Bionics are developing bionic arms that combine art, engineering, and science fiction to offer amputees more choice. 



Open Bionics Gets A Grip

Last week we ran our first batch of object testing with our latest 3D printed prosthetic hand design. We’ve been experimenting to find out which grip modes will benefit amputees most.

In the video below you will see objects being handled that are different weights, heights, sizes, and shapes. We also had a mix of rigid and flexible objects, and objects with handles and without.  We chose to test 25 objects selected from amputee feedback and academic research. Most of the objects were pointed out as being a ‘must be able to handle’ by amputees, if this bionic hand is to be useful for everyday use. We found this research on ‘Role Analysis of Dominant and Non-dominant Hand in Daily Life’  very helpful.

The bionic hand in this video is capable of handling 5 kilos of weight and demonstrates this by picking up the loaded shopping bag. Open Bionics tries out another round of objects testing. This is a 3D printed bionic hand in development for amputees.

This test was designed to see how our bionic hand can manipulate objects. You’ll notice this test wasn’t performed by an amputee. We created a 3D printed handle to test the hand because we didn't want to inconvenience an amputee volunteer for every test run. We'll share this handle design with you soon. We have since tested with an amputee and we’ll share that video with you next week (check out the sneak peek below of Dan picking up a marble).

Short video showing a congenital amputee manipulating a marble with our 3D printed bionic prosthesis controlled via EMG sensors.

This 3D printed bionic hand can be controlled via EMG sensors to perform multiple grip changes. In this video we are testing the following grip modes:

  • Full open / close

  • Hook

  • Thumbs up / down

  • Index finger point

  • Pinch grip

  • Tripod grip

This prosthetic also has proportional control. This means amputees can choose how much power to move their fingers with, this affects the speed and force of grip. So, an amputee can hold a bottle and choose to squeeze the bottle harder if they think the bottle might slip.  

Although a lot of the testing was about handling objects, some of the grip modes are there to make gesturing easier. For example, the ‘index finger point’ has been highlighted to us as really important by amputees who use a split-hook or cosmetic prosthesis. Sometimes it can be a struggle to accurately point things out when you don’t have a working index finger.

We've been using micro gel finger tip grips to give the fingers more friction. If you know a better solution please share your idea with us on our forum

All of the grip modes demonstrated in this prosthetic hand can be found in our robotic 'Ada hand' for researchers and makers. The 'Ada hand' isn't built to be a prosthetic but a research platform.  We are still developing our prosthetic hands. 

Next week we’ll show you how this bionic hand can be used by an amputee to manipulate various objects and perform everyday tasks. We’d be really interested to know if there are certain tasks you’d like to perform easier, or certain objects you’d like to be able to grip better. Let us know by tweeting us or writing in the comments on Facebook!

Build your own 3D printed robotic hand in under an hour

Today Open Bionics announced the release of their first open source 3D printed robotic hand kit. The ‘Ada hand’.

The team, based in the UK’s Bristol Robotics Lab, have released their first robotic hand called ‘Ada’ complete with tutorials, detailed build instructions, and bill of materials. Check it out on their website or on Instructables, Thingiverse, and Youmagine.

The project is currently featured by editors on Instructables.

Open Bionics said they wanted to offer the robotics, maker, and 3D printing community the easiest to make open source robotic hand, and this release can be built within an hour.

Instead of spending tens of thousands on robotic hands for research robots like Baxter, Open Bionics says build your own for £500.

The Ada Hand is a fully articulated robotic hand from Open Bionics. It is a kit of parts and can be assembled in around 1 hour using standard tools. The hand has 5 degrees of freedom (DOF) and can be controlled from a PC or MAC over USB connection. The Ada hand houses all of the actuators required to move the fingers as well as its own custom control printed circuit board (PCB). The PCB is  based around the ATMEGA2560 microcontroller and can be programmed using the Arduino programming environment which will be familiar to many developers.

The Ada hand is perfect for anyone that is doing a project with robotic hands or wants a neat, light, and functional robotic hand for use with a humanoid robot.

Open Bionics’ ‘Ada’ hand is very different to the original ‘Dextrus’ hand. The print and assembly time has been made radically faster and easier.

Joel Gibbard, Open Bionics’ CEO, said the team wanted to make robot hand building easy.

“We know there are hundreds of people around the world that really want to contribute to designing a fantastic robotic hand, both for applications in robotics and in prosthetics. At the moment there is a large barrier to entry to getting involved in this project and contributing to developments. With the Ada hand we want to remove that barrier. The hand is 3D printable on an FDM desktop home printer and can be assembled in an hour, we’ve also created a developer community so people can sign up and post their developments in our forums. We’ll constantly be suggesting bite-sized projects for developers to take on and taking feedback from them about what else they need."

“I think one of the big barriers to people making and starting projects is a daunting magnitude of the build and a lack of documentation, instruction, and guidance. We are trying really hard to make sure we have detailed and easy to follow assembly instructions, comprehensive data sheets, and lots of tutorials to suit all levels of ability.

“We’re trying to make this as easy as we can for people with any level of technical ability. For example, if a researcher is studying robot interaction and needs a robot hand, but building a robot hand from scratch isn’t part of her/his project and they’re looking at affordable options, we want this build available to them and for it to be quick and easy.”

Part of this move is to encourage developers to post their research in the newly opened Open Bionics’ developer forum.

Joel added: “We receive a lot of emails from researchers who want to buy or make our hands. But we receive more emails from researchers and makers who want to contribute to our goal of making low-cost 3D printed bionic hands readily available for amputees. We’ve had a handful of researchers who have used our hands to contribute to award-winning medical research and prosthetic testing. We’re hoping that by making our robotic hands easier to make, we’re opening up the possibility for more researchers to get involved and contribute.”

Open Bionics named their robotic hand after Ada Lovelace, celebrating Lovelace’s contribution to programming.

Olly McBride, Open Bionics’ Software Engineer said: “Ada's vision was to develop the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating and number crunching, our robotic hands are an embodiment of this development as embedded programming has enabled us to programme multiple grip modes for this hand.”

This was a big release for Open Bionics. In the week since the developer forum opened they’ve had 109 makers, engineers, and amputees sign up to contribute to our research and development.

Open Bionics is an award-winning robotics company creating affordable 3D printed bionic hands for amputees. Last year they announced a deal with Disney to create official Iron Man, Star Wars, and Frozen hands for amputees.

Join the Open Bionics developer community! 3D print your own hand with a print time of 24 hours or buy an assembly kit with all components here.

10 reasons why one hand is better than two.

1. You can create the most legit cosplay outfits.

@aannggeellll as Furiosa from MadMax Fury Road.

@aannggeellll as Furiosa from MadMax Fury Road.

2. Free running. You’re one limb lighter so you can jump further.

Check out James Rudge Parkour. 

Check out James Rudge Parkour

3. You can have a *snake* arm.

Alternative limbs are so freakin' cool.

Alternative limbs are so freakin' cool.

4. Chores? A thing of the past.

Take a bow @Gracemandeville.

Take a bow @Gracemandeville.

5. Halloween costumes can be gloriously gory. 

From your cyborg drummer, Jason Barnes. 

From your cyborg drummer, Jason Barnes. 

6. You can hack your prosthetics. Want a colourful 3D printed version? Make one for free!

Print your own with design files here. 

Print your own with design files here

7. You can look like your favourite hero. Iron Man anyone?!

Open Bionics will release these soon. Prototypes by Open Bionics tested by Avenger Sydney and Jedi Logan. 

Open Bionics will release these soon. Prototypes by Open Bionics tested by Avenger Sydney and Jedi Logan. 

8. You get compared to the best sci-fi character of all time, a lot.

9. Characters with one hand are always badass.

There are so many awesome amputee / cyborg characters that we had to dedicated a new post just to them. Click here. 

There are so many awesome amputee / cyborg characters that we had to dedicated a new post just to them. Click here

10. You’ll never be caught without a bottle opener.  

Our friend Jason (@koger84) tricked out his prosthetic socket with family photos and a bottle opener. 

Our friend Jason (@koger84) tricked out his prosthetic socket with family photos and a bottle opener. 

These are just 10 reasons we pulled from friends, have any of your own? Tweet us your ideas @openbionics

Top 10 fictional hand amputees.

We were discussing the best amputees in movies and games so we made this list. Enjoy! 

1. Furiosa of Mad Max Fury Road.

Steampunk and prosthetics? Yes!

Steampunk and prosthetics? Yes!

2. Merle of The Walking Dead.

Please don't make this at home.

Please don't make this at home.

3. Buster Bluff of Arrested Development. 

We heart Buster. 

We heart Buster. 

4. Jamie Lannister of Game of Thrones. 

A prosthetic hand made of gold? Sounds heavy.

A prosthetic hand made of gold? Sounds heavy.

5. Adam Jensen of Deus Ex. 

The bionic amputee of the future. 

The bionic amputee of the future. 

6. Winter Soldier of Marvel's Captain America.

This hunk of metal would make an epic cosplay prosthesis. 

This hunk of metal would make an epic cosplay prosthesis. 

7. Big Boss from Metal Gear Solid.

Half man, half machine. 100% badass. 

Half man, half machine. 100% badass. 

8. Darth Vader.

This Star Wars villain was mostly machine, in fact.

This Star Wars villain was mostly machine, in fact.

9. Luke Skywalker.

Perhaps the most famous bionic hand in the universe. 

Perhaps the most famous bionic hand in the universe. 

10. Terminator. 

We could totally 3D print that. 

We could totally 3D print that. 

3D printed, dual material, medical splint

Open Bionics has teamed up with a researcher at the University of Bristol to create a dual material, custom, 3D printed splint for people with broken wrists.

Abby Taylor and Open Bionics' mechanical engineer Jonathan Raines created an innovative 3D printed medical splint by combining PLA and Ninja Flex (a thermoplastic elastomer) with two extruders on a desktop 3D printer.

3D Printed Splint Arm Cast

Abby, who is based at the University of Bristol and has a PHD from the University of South Australia, had an idea for a lighter and more convenient cast that could greatly improve life for patients.

The researcher asked Open Bionics to help her bring her idea to life by using their 3D scanning and 3D printing methods.

Open Bionics did so by 3D scanning Abby's wrist before applying a Voronoi pattern to the model and then 3D printed a custom-fitted, dual material splint.

The design combines the strength of PLA with the flexibility and softness of the filament printed on the inside. The flexible material also acts as a living hinge, meaning patients can get in and out of the splint with ease.

Abby said: “We hope to create an alternative to conventional casting that is often heavy and impractical. We want to improve the wearer's experience.”

This first print which fit comfortably, is a sign that 3D printing could enable patients to have an improved splint that's 'way more integrative' with the daily life of the patient.

Open Bionics estimated that the material costs for the splint, which prints in one part, is just £2.

The innovative startup will be supporting Abby's research into alternative medical casting for broken or injured wrists for the next year while continuing to develop their low-cost bionic hands.

Jonathan said: “It's an interesting medical project to take a look at because it's related to our field. It's exciting doing similar work, you're looking for a solution to a different problem that could still help lots of people.”

Wounded hero with 3D printed hand

Scroll down for video and design files.

Taylor Morris Wearing Open Bionics Hand

A quadruple amputee in the US has become the first wounded soldier to wear a 3D printed bionic hand that was designed in the UK.

Taylor, who lost his limbs in an IED blast whilst serving in the military in Afghanistan, and his friend Neal have spent the last two months working on the Dextrus V1.2, - an affordable bionic hand prototype.

Neal, an engineer from Iowa, decided to 3D print a robotic hand for his friend with the goal of developing a prosthetic that was more functional and easier to use than Taylor’s current one.

Neal started by 3D printing Joel's Open Hand Projects' open-source Dextrus design with the Da Vinci 1.0 3D printer. He then fit Taylor with the bionic hand and completed his first proof of concept. It was important for Neal to test the prosthetic fit and see if Taylor could control the bionic hand.

Taylor can be seen in the video moving the Dextrus fingers by flexing his residual muscles which are covered with EMG sensors.

The engineer now plans to redesign the arm for its first full-featured build by adding a 2-axis wrist, an elbow strap with push-button tension adjustment, and additional programming to allow for switching between several grip modes.

Neal said: “In its completed form, this arm may not end up being the go-to for daily usage compared to the professional-made prosthetics that Taylor has, but that’s fine because this project will have served as the test bed for trying out new features and creating a control program to work as easily and intuitively as possible.”

“The next time Taylor is having a professional-made prosthetic arm put together, he will be able to provide this 3D-printed arm as an example of every feature and program behavior that he will want the new arm to include.”

“For our 3D-printed arm having cost between 1% and 2% of what his last prosthetic arm was, there won’t be any excuse for it not to have all of its features. The use of 3D printing and open-source programming to enable rapid prototyping at low-cost, combined with having an open-source hand design like the Dextrus available to work with, have been crucial to making this project a reality.”

Neal believes in working open-source and plans to share his adaptions and upgrades to the Dextrus design with the maker community.

Joel, who designed the Dextrus during his Open Hand Project crowd-funding campaign, said he was happy to see so many researchers using his open-source developments to make strides in prosthetic technology.

Joel added: “This was always the goal, to release my designs and have incredible engineers like Neal take them and adapt them for their own purposes and to help someone else. It’s awesome to think a design I worked on in my bedroom at my parent’s house has been downloaded and built by people I’ve never met across the world.”

"It's great that Neal is sharing his designs and ideas too. This is the fastest way to creating better prosthetics for the people who need them everywhere."

Here Neal tests the 3D printed hand's functionality and control with his own arm.

If you want to 3D print your own Dextrus, the files are waiting for you on Intructables: Dextrus V1.1 Robotic Hand.

Inclusive Technology Prize

Open Bionics has been named as one of the 25 innovations that will make the UK more accessible to the 1 in 5 people with disabilities.

25 designers and entrepreneurs have been shortlisted out of 200 pitches for the Inclusive Technology prize, and are now in with the chance to win a £50,000 prize for a technology, product or service that enables disabled people in the UK better access to life’s opportunities.

The Inclusive Technology prize judges said they were inspired by the inventive ideas put forward.

Joel Gibbard, Open Bionics CEO, said: "We decided to enter the Inclusive Technology prize because we want to make a difference with our 3D printed, robotic hands for amputees everywhere. We believe there's a huge need for affordable robotic prosthetics and we think we can help by using emerging technologies like 3D scanning and 3D printing to bring the cost down.

"We're not just focusing on the functionality of the device, we're focusing on making 3D printed hands that amputees will enjoy wearing. We want them to be fashionable, inspiring for children, and even have a few extra capabilities to one-up the human hand. We're constantly working with amputees to develop these desirable devices."

Human hand holding bionic hand

Inclusive Technology prize judge, Jess Thom, said: “Judging the competition so far has been inspiring, as there have been lots genuinely exciting products and inventive ideas that make the best use of technologies available to us, and can help to increase accessibility for the 12.2 million disabled people in the UK.”

The prize seeks to foster the next generation of assistive tools and technologies that will make a real difference to the 1 in 5 people living with limiting long term illness or disability in the UK.

The shortlist has been selected by a judging panel including comedians Jess Thom, who has Tourette’s syndrome, and Laurence Clark who has cerebral palsy, as well as Alan Norton, CEO of Assist charity and Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK among others. The shortlisted organisations and individuals will receive mentoring and support from Leonard Cheshire Disability, the UKs leading charity supporting disabled people.

Gemma Bull, Managing Director Enterprise and Innovation for Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “We are very excited about working with Nesta and mentoring the competition entrants through the Inclusive Technology Prize. This is a fantastic opportunity to develop innovative technology which supports disabled people to lead more independent lives.”

The 25 semi-finalists take part in the mentoring stage of the competition in March, April and May this year, and ten finalists will be selected to develop prototypes ready for impact testing throughout 2015. The winner of the £50,000 contract will be announced in March 2016.

The challenge will encourage all semi-finalists to innovate through co-creation with disabled people, meeting needs as defined by the users themselves.

The Minister of State for Disabled People Mark Harper said: “Innovative technology can make a real difference to the lives of disabled people and I’m delighted that the Inclusive Technology Prize has inspired all of these cutting edge ideas.

“Supporting disabled people to live full lives and enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else is an absolute priority for us and I am confident that advances in technology will continue to enable us to do more. I wish all the nominees the best of luck.”

The full shortlist can be seen at

A bionic model is born

Scroll down for video

Over the past few years the personalisation of healthcare devices has been a growing trend in the maker-sphere.

From gold-plated hearing aids, neon walking sticks, and sparkling blade prosthetics to 3D printed arm casts, people with disabilities are no longer waiting for health services to catch up, they are dragging their medical devices into the future on their own.

These medical aids are getting a long-awaited makeover and today it's the turn of the bionic hand with Open Bionics unveiling of their latest 3Dprinted prosthetic at London's 'Wearable Tech Show'.

Open Bionics, a startup of four based inside the Bristol Robotic's Laboratory's Technology Incubator, has 3D printed a custom-fitted bionic hand with enough sparkle to rival a disco ball for a woman born without a hand.

Grace Mandeville modelling open bionics robotic hand
Bionic hand holding human hand

Grace Mandeville is a YouTube starlet and CBBC actress who applauds the growing popularity for diverse prosthetics.

Grace has taken to YouTube on multiple occasions to discuss diversity and her love of inventive prosthetics that can show off a bit of her vibrant personality.

Grace said: “This is my favourite thing about this whole topic. I really love fashion, and therefor 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.”

“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 arms cool and I know”.”

Grace Mandeville wearing bionic hand

Open Bionics' COO Samantha Payne said that the idea behind the Swarovski hand was to show off the possibilities for prosthetics within 3D printing.

Samantha said: “We printed Grace a socket and robotic hand in three days, and because 3D printing is so affordable we can add Swarovksi crystals and create something really eye-catching that will not break the bank. 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.”

“Prosthetics are entering the realms of fashion and we wanted to show how bionic prosthetics can be functional and fun.”

“We've been very experimental with Grace's hand. This is a completely new socket design and this is the first time we've experimented with placing the EMG sensors above the elbow. Grace is actually controlling her hand by the muscle signals from her back.”

“The idea is to give hand amputees more option and a choice to have something they'd get some enjoyment out of wearing.”

“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.”

Grace Mandeville giving thumbs up with open bionics robotic hand

Grace's sister, Amelia Mandeville, said that having an attractive prosthetic could help turn something that is seen as 'negative into a positive'. Amelia echoed her sister's stance for having the option to stand out, asking “Who wants to be the same?”

Grace Mandeville Open Bionics Arm

As Grace eloquently puts it, “Why try to blend in? When you can have a piece of art as an arm instead?”

Grace was given a traditional cosmetic prosthetic when she was little and has one now but says, “I never wear it, I don't like wearing it, it gets in the way.”

Grace said: “I love what Open Bionics is doing. So many people at the 'Wearable Tech Show' thought I had a hand and that I was wearing a fashionable sleeve, making some kind of 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.”

“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. I thought it was going to be really heavy but it wasn't. I obviously still feel the difference, I was born with a foreshorten forearm so wearing anything is going to feel different and will always be an added weight.”

“I don't ever wear prosthetics because I don't feel like I need to. I would however absolutely love a bionic hand like this for events and evening's out. I love fashion and this looks incredible.”

Open Bionics is still developing their robotic prosthetics and hope to be selling 3D printed hands within a year.

Open Bionics has won multiple awards for their open source 3D printed robotic hands and was recently named as one of the Top 50 international robotics companies to watch along with Google.

Video of Grace taken at the show by a Robin Fearon:

Read more on 3Ders3D Print Industry, and 3D Print.