Robotics mission in Japan with Prince William

Two Bristol-based robotics startups have been chosen to represent 'the best of British innovation' in Japan this week.

The 'Innovation is GREAT' campaign was opened by Prince William in Tokyo earlier today.

The robotics trade mission, put on by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), will hear from inventor Joel Gibbard, of Open Bionics, and Reach Robotics founder Silas Adekunle.

Both Joel and Silas, whose businesses are based inside the Bristol Robotics Laboratory's Tech Incubator, will showcase their inventions. 

Silas will demonstrate his spider-like 'battle' robot at the opening campaign event, and Joel will present his latest 3D printed robotic hand.

The UKTI hopes to strengthen the working relationship between academics and businesses in Japan and Britain.

A spokesperson for the British embassy said Joel is proof that 'harnessing entrepreneurial skills and design principles can lead to the development of life-changing products.'

The campaign is designed to to drive innovation, research and development, and commercial partnerships between the academic and business sectors.

A spokesperson from British Embassy said: "Great ideas flourish in Great Britain. The highest standard of universities, a well established business environment and governance, government support and incentives help make creative ideas come to life."

The UK is known for its entrepreneurship and spirit of innovation. Our discoveries, inventions and ideas have a profound impact on the world. Famous entrepreneurs include James Dyson and Richard Branson, and famous British inventions include the worldwide web, the automated teller machine (ATM), the wind-up radio which has helped share vital information in protecting against infectious diseases, and the wonder-material graphene.

Joel Gibbard demonstrating bionic hand in Japan

'Innovation is GREAT' is a year-long campaign by the British Government to build partnerships between the United Kingdom and Japan to lead positive social change in the future. The British Embassy Tokyo is launching its campaign on the occasion of the Duke of Cambridge’s visit to Japan by showcasing the best of British innovation at a series of launch events.

Joel will also give a talk at the University of Tokyo later this week about how design and innovation can be used for social change. Find out more here:

Open Bionics makes Top 50 robotics list

A South West startup has been ranked amongst Dyson, Google, and Panasonic as one of the Top 50 robotics companies to watch in 2015. 

The international RBR50 list named Open Bionics as one of the most noteworthy companies in the global robotics industry for 2015.

The Open Bionics Team

Chosen by the robotics community through the Robotics Business Review (RBR), RBR50 companies are recognized based on their innovation, groundbreaking application, commercial success and potential, and represent many different levels and facets of the robotics ecosystem.

Open Bionics was considered for their groundbreaking work into 3D printed robotic prosthetic hands.

Joel Gibbard, Open Bionics’ founder, said: “Looking at the list and seeing our startup’s name feels incredible. Pretty much every single company on the list is a company I have aspired to work for in the past and certainly aspire to match in their success in innovation in the future.”

This international compilation spans 11 countries and in addition to the large conglomerates, 20% of the list is comprised of lesser-known startups. The RBR50 list is dynamic, with robotics companies entering and leaving on an annual basis and thus creating a list that is indicative of where the global robotics industry as a whole is headed.

“2015: Year of the Inflection Point in robotics. What a great time to be counted among the global best in the fastest rising industry in the world. Once again, the robotics community has done a stellar job in selecting those few to represent all,” says Tom Green, RBR Editor in Chief.

With the robotics industry more competitive than ever, new companies are popping up all the time. Of those companies, the RBR50 list outlines those who should be kept on your business radar. 

This is the latest international recognition for the Bristol-based business after a string of recent award wins including ‘Best Product Innovation,’ at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Video: An early prototype being tested, the first time anyone has been fitted with a custom-fit robotic hand created with a 3D printer and 3D scanner. 

Top TAZ tips for 3D printing

I've been using LulzBot printers ever since they started selling them and have had a lot of experience with my Lulzbot TAZ printers. Here are a few top tips for 3D printing on them, they are printer specific, but may also be of use to people using other machines.

1. Bed Adhesion: Rough the bed up a bit. If you have the standard TAZ PET bed (green tape) you'll need to give it a good sand down. Get some P600 sandpaper and sand it it a circular motion. This combined with "Lulzjuice" (Acetone mixed with a bit of ABS) will give you a great first layer adhesion. If instead you have the new TAZ 5 with PEI bed you shouldn't have this problem at all, it works great.

2. Nozzle Clogging: Paper towel+ peg as shown in picture. This cleans the filament of any dust or particulate as it enters the extruder, minimizing the chance of the nozzle clogging. I learnt this one from the Strooder guys!


3. TAZ fan mount: Find our fan mount on Thingiverse. You may need to purchase the fan extruder add-on from lulzbot for about $25. The mount they provide directs air towards the print, which improves print quality because the plastic dries faster, especially where overhang is steep. My fan mount also directs some air at the nozzle heat sink, which prevents the heat creeping up the filament during slow or long prints which can sometimes cause an extruder jam.

Happy 3D Printing folks!

Most Advanced 3D Printed Robotic Prosthetic

Scroll down for a video of the world's most advanced 3D printed robotic prosthetic hand in action.

During the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, Open Bionics trialled their latest 3D printed robotic hand by custom-fitting it to a man born without a right hand and have him wear it for five days straight.

Robot hand with Human hand

Daniel, aged 24, and his robotic hand were such a hit at CES that after he featured on SnapChat's live feed he received a marriage proposal.

Daniel, Open Bionics' first pilot, said of the trial: “I was feeling pretty emotional being there because it has been an amazing thing to be a part of. Because I was born without a hand, essentially I've been learning to use a hand for the first time, it's really surreal. I kept shaking hands with people, and they kept asking to high-five, fist-bump, and take photos with me. It was really nice seeing how people reacted to my robotic hand, nobody shied away and I felt like I was making up for lost time.”

Open Bionics' latest robotic hand, which is now half-the weight of current robotic prosthetics, won Computer Bild's prestigious 'Best Product Innovation' award out of all the products exhibiting at CES2015.

Dan Melville robotic high five

The Bristol-based company now plans to re-design the hand to enable the prosthetic to lift heavier weights, close its fingers around smaller objects, and enable better grasping.

The inventor of the hand, 24-year-old Joel Gibbard, said: “Another thing we're working on is making the robotic hand completely wireless. Our next step is to have a fully integrated hand that is one unit. It has to be so easy-to-use that Dan can just pick it up, put it on, start using it immediately without any wires, and then re-charge it at night.”

A hand amputee can currently operate the hand by sticking electromygraphical sensors to the skin that pick up muscle activity. An amputee has to flex their residual limb muscle to tell the robotic hand to open and close.

For Dan, this was an easy process, he said: “I just put the prosthetic on, plug in the battery pack, and stick on the EMG sensors. It's great at picking up the muscle signals. I'd say it took me about two minutes to get used to it and the sensors didn't stop working for the whole trip.”

robotic handshake with bionic hand

Daniel gave feedback during the week which will lead to certain advancements and a better functioning robotic hand.

Joel added: “It was interesting to watch someone adjust to wearing a bionic device, in the way that they used it naturally, and without thinking about it. Seeing Dan wearing the hand was a motivator because I saw that he could actually use it, and that it would be a benefit to him, just like we hoped it would. We could also see clearer the issues with it, that we now have to solve. It's a big push forward for us.”

Joel plans to drive the cost of robotic prosthetic devices down to under $1,000 by using 3D scanning to fit amputees and 3D printing to produce the prosthetics. He has previously 3D scanned an amputees' residual limb, 3D printed a custom-fitting prosthetic, and fit to a person in under five days.

Joel,who was recently named 'Britain's Design Engineer of The Year' has been shortlisted for Semta's 'Engineering Hall of Fame' for his groundbreaking work into 3D printed robotic prosthetics. Vote for Joel to win here:

Open Bionics at CES 2015

In just eight months Open Bionics has grown from a one-person, crowd-funded idea to a three-person startup that has attracted investors and technologists worldwide, and now the Bristol company is off to showcase their work at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

CES 2015 Open Bionics

From January 6th to January 9th, Las Vegas becomes the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.

This year CES will host seven wearable technology startups from the finals of Intel's 'Make It Wearable' competition, including Open Bionics. You can say hi to the team in the Intel booth at CES (LVCC, Central Hall Booth #7252).

A representative from Intel said Open Bionics had created products that "blend visionary thinking with business value."

The spokesperson added: "Intel aims to inspire and create excitement with CES visitors by showcasing - through technology demonstrations like these - that the future of wearable computing is boundless."

The Open Bionics team, Joel Gibbard, Sammy Payne, Vitória Maurício and Daniel Melville, will showcase their latest robotic hand which is now half the weight of leading robotic hands.

The company's open source work is already benefiting people globally. So far, Open Bionics' Dextrus hands have been 3D printed in the U.S.A., Canada, Ukraine, Scotland, and Australia.

Recently students from a university in Illinois, U.S.A., 3D printed a Dextrus hand for an amputee in Ecuador.

Founder Joel Gibbard said: “We were over the moon when Intel invited us to showcase our advancements at CES. It's an incredible opportunity to be on the world stage showing how innovative technologies can be used to change lives and help people."

Joel added: “We have a feeling new advancements in the field of wearable technology will be taking centre stage this year. It's going to be an exciting trip.”

Karen Chupka, senior vice president, International CES and corporate business strategy, Consumer Electronics Association, said: “CES is becoming known as the key event for innovative startups to increase their exposure and become successful.”

CES showcases more than 3,500 exhibitors, including manufacturers, developers, and suppliers of consumer technology hardware. More than 150,000 people from more than 140 countries attend the gathering.

Many world-changing technologies have been unveiled at CES, including driverless car technology, electric car technology, 3D HDTV, 3D printing, and more.

This year will see more revelations for 3D printing, from the latest 3D printers to 'living' 3D printed dresses.

Founded in April 2014, Open Bionics has received multiple awards for its groundbreaking work in 3D printed robotic prosthetic technology.

Founder Joel Gibbard, was recently named 'British Young Design Engineer of the Year' at the British Engineering Excellence Awards, 'Founder of the Year' at The SPARKies, and has been shortlisted for Semta's 'Engineering Hall of Fame' award sponsored by Rolls Royce and Jaguar.

Open Bionics has been shortlisted for a number of technology awards and won a cash prize for Britain's 'Best Startup Business Idea'. The company also recently won the 'Prosthetic Innovation of the Year' award from the Limbless Association and placed 2nd in Intel's global 'Make It Wearable' competition, winning $200,000. The startup was publicly backed by Limbcare earlier this year.

Open Bionics hopes to work with more hand amputees and families of young amputees in 2015 after being inspired by six-year-old Charlotte Nott.

5 crowd-funding tips

1) Don't think it's all about the money

“You approach a crowd-funding platform because you need money to realise your dream. But, what you receive from a campaign is so much more than financial backing. The Open Hand Project campaign created this amazing community of people who are still supporting the project a year on. We were backed by over 1,000 people and that is an incredibly important validation of what we're trying to do. Your backers are the people who set you up for so many opportunities in the future. They're invaluable.” - Open Bionics founder, Joel Gibbard.

Dextrus Hand Open Hand Project

Open Bionics was born out of The Open Hand Project, Bristol's most successful Indiegogo campaign. The campaign raised over £40,000 to fund the development of 3D printed robotic hands.

2) Don't wait for the shares

“The key to a successful campaign is in the back campaign (prep). Kickstarter will help with letting people know about your campaign but don't rely on it. Use social media to find your market across their various hangouts and bring them onto your project page. This should be carried out online in the form of forums, blogs and news sites and in the physical world at local shows or community spaces.

Don't Lie, too. Kickstarter backers come from a variety of places but a key market they attract is early adopters. They have backed projects before and know what to look for, they know the technology and can identify weak points. Use this to your advantage by pulling from them their experiences. They will love to help, and respond well to good communicators.” - Omnidynamics co-founder, David Graves.

Kickstarter to fund their first product called Strooder. The Strooder campaign asked for $20,000 and was funded in 11 hours. They raised over $60,000 by the end of their campaign.

3) Don't assume anything!

“Don't rush the preparation and make sure the project has been planned and costed in detail beforehand. Risk assess and think through consequences of problems and things not going to plan as this will be inevitable!” - Agilic founder, Harry Gee.

it's first product, Tiddlybot, through Kickstarter and raised over $10,000 more than their goal. View the campaign page here.

4) Don't hit that 'go live' button just yet

“Timing and preparation is key: Make sure you know everything about your manufacturing costs, timeline and margins before you launch. Once you take crowd money, you owe them the product you promised.” - Reach Robotics founder, Silas Adekunle.

[Ed: Great point, learn from this... The Ring]

the world's first gaming robots. The company was set to launch an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign this month but delayed it.

5) Don't wait for the publicity to roll in

“If you're new to social media pick at least one platform and master it. This could be Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or YouTube. Communication is key for a successful campaign so post regularly, stay positive, and stay away from online arguments or controversy. Expand your reach by getting involved with established online communities whether that's through RoboHub, IEEE Automaton blog, or another outlet.” - Robohub president, Dr. Sabine Hauert.

Robohub is a nonprofit platform where users can share news with the technology community, it has also partnered with two successful campaigns to fund robotics products.

Don't forget to sign up for emails on the homepage if you want the latest tips and tutorials.

3D printed hand wins award

Open Bionics founder Joel Gibbard has won a prosthetic innovation award for his work developing 3D printed robotic hands for amputees.

The Limbless Association Prosthetic and Orthotics Awards recognise and reward outstanding contributions and achievements in the limb-loss and healthcare communities.

Joel was in a tightly fought category with Lee Duffy who is innovating prosthetic sockets by using natural plant fibre.

Awards judge and presenter Deborah Johnson, from sponsors Slater & Gordon, said the ceremony was an absolute pleasure and she was glad to see Joel pick up a prize.

Deborah said: “I had a very difficult job selecting a winner from the top class nominees but was delighted to be able to present the award for product innovation to Joel Gibbard of Open Bionics for his incredible work on 3D printed robotic prosthetic hands."

Stuart Holt, Limbless Association trustee, said he was happy to see Joel win and urged him to continue developing the 3D printed robotic hands.

Joel said: “We've come along way since we met the Limbless Association over a year ago. We've achieved a huge amount of innovation in the prosthetics sector since. This award is a magnificent validation of the work we've achieved so far and it inspires us to keep pushing forward. It feels great to be recognised and supported by the amputee community, they're driving this technology innovation as much as we are.”

The awards ceremony celebrated inspirational amputees, prosthetists, user groups, and innovators.

Founder of the Year Award

Scroll down for video

While Open Bionics was in San Francisco pitching for half a million dollars, our founder Joel Gibbard was named 'Founder of the Year' at The Sparkies awards.

TechSpark set out to shine a light on the 'very best people, products and companies' that make up the tech sector in Bristol, Bath, and the broader West of England region.

The awards celebrate individuals and companies that champion and drive tech innovation in business.

As well as Joel winning 'Founder of the Year', his company Open Bionics made it as a finalist in two other categories.

For the 'Founder of the Year' award judges were looking for someone in the tech community who has consistently demonstrated a significant entrepreneurial spirit and whose digital activity has shown commitment, enthusiasm, success and achievement.

The judges said of Joel and Open Bionics: ‘Brilliant use of new technology to disrupt a tired old sector and transform lives by making prosthetics more capable, affordable and accessible. Joel combines technical brilliance with a positive social mission, making this a real example of entrepreneurship at its best.’

Joel was sad to have missed the annual tech event but had electronics engineer Patrick Brinson to pick up the award for him.

You can see the full list of winners and those nominated here: The Sparkies. 

TechSpark put together this video to celebrate Bristol and Bath's tech scene. Spot our founder and robot hand (we love the ending best).

Open Bionics is based in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a world leading research and innovation centre for robotics.

Prosthetic Innovation Award

Joel Gibbard has been shortlisted for an award celebrating innovation in the prosthetics industry.

Joel Gibbard Open Bionics robotic hand

Limbless Association, who provide support to amputees and the limb-loss community, will host the annual 'Prosthetic and Orthotic Awards' in London on December 3rd.

The awards recognize and reward outstanding contributions and achievements in the limb-loss and healthcare communities and the prosthetic and orthotic industry.

Awards' organiser Ed Pearce said: "I am personally really pleased to see that Joel and Open Bionics have been nominated for the award as they offer the  average amputee a high quality product at a more affordable price."

"We have had dozens of inspirational stories and outstanding candidates and I know the judges have had a difficult task with choosing the winners!"

The awards attract professionals who work in the prosthetics and orthotics industry as well as user groups and inspirational people with limb differences.

Joel Gibbard said: “The awards ceremony will be a fantastic evening. I'm looking forward to meeting the industry professionals and people from the limb-loss community so I can gather their thoughts on our project. There's going to be a room full of people with a lifetime of invaluable experiences and knowledge, so we're very grateful to have been included.”

Joel was nominated because of the work he is doing with Open Bionics. Joel is using new technologies to create affordable robotic hands for amputees that will change the healthcare industry.

Joel is focused on making current high-tech robotic hands that cost anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000 for as little as $1,000. 

Categories for awards include 'The Inspiration Award', 'Life Time Achievement Award', 'Outstanding Service by An Individual', 'Disabled Service Centre or Limb Fitting Centre Award', 'User or Support Group Achievement Award', and the 'Prosthetic Innovation Award'.

Open Bionics' big win from Intel

Open Bionics won $200,000 to continue developing bionic hands after finishing second place in Intel's wearable technology competition.

Intel Make it wearable winners open bionics

Founder Joel Gibbard said: "It has been an awesome experience learning from business experts and the other teams. We're far more customer focused now and the result is going to be a prosthetic that is perfectly suited to the needs of amputees. With the money we've now won we can complete the development of this device and get these hands on amputees."

“We totally believe this money will help to revolutionise the prosthetics industry with the use of 3D scanning and 3D printing technology.”

Joel added: “Team Nixie totally deserved the win, they are an amazing set of people who are using technology to open people's minds about what's possible. Likewise, ProGlove are a team of immense talent and I have no doubt that we will be seeing huge innovations from them in the future. It feels great that the winning teams were all from Europe and that we could represent Bristol and the UK.”

brian krzanich venus williams samantha payne joel gibbard

Open Bionics teammate Sammy Payne, said: "This competition has been incredible. We have come a long way and we're very grateful to the industry experts and mentors in Silicon Valley for their coaching and guidance. We've been overwhelmed with the messages of support from people who need bionic hands and we'll be using the $200,000 prize money to get these prosthetics to those people faster.”

“It feels particularly great as a woman because of the five women who were finalists, two walked away as winners. Both teams that placed first and second were the only teams that had women pitching. I think this speaks a lot to the technology and business industry."

"Having the CEO of Best Buy come over to congratulate me on our pitch was a bit surreal. He said he thought our ideas were amazing and it was great to have his support. It was also pretty fantastic when Stefan Olander from Nike stopped me to say hello and shake my hand. The judges seemed impressed with our pitch and offered some great advice." 

Open Bionics won the biggest applause of the evening when the team told judges their work was open source.

The company plans to use the money to get their 3D printed bionic hands fully developed and through medical testing and FDA approval.

The team is driven to create bionic hands that are affordable, comfortable to wear, and that look inspiring. 

Open Bionics is based inside the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK, it is a world-leading centre for robotics and research. 

Feel free to join the chat, tweet @openbionics!