3D printed bionic arms for children may soon be available through the NHS as the world's first clinical trial of a 3D printed bionic hand is granted a groundbreaking second stage.
NHS England has partnered with Open Bionics, who produce cutting-edge multi-grip 3D-printed devices for child amputees, based on popular Disney characters. The Bristol-based innovators use new technologies like 3D scanning and 3D printing to produce robotic arms at a fraction of a cost of current models, which cost up to £60,000 and are prohibitive to growing children.
Following a six-month NHS trial with 7 children in Bristol earlier this year, Open Bionics passed a NHS judging panel to be awarded a product development contract from NHS England. The new trial is underway and involves 15 children and young people from NHS clinics around the UK. The trial will bring the NHS one step closer to being able to offer 3D printed advanced bionic arms to thousands of children.
- The customised bionic arms are manufactured in under 24 hours and the revolutionary socket adjusts as the child grows.
- The bionic arms are light and small enough for those as young as eight.
- The bionic arms use myoelectric skin sensors to detect the user’s muscle movements, which can be used to control the hand and open and close the fingers.
Tilly Lockey, an 11-year-old from Durham, lost both her hands after she developed meningitis as a baby, but with her bionic arm she can now do everyday tasks such as holding a paintbrush, walking a dog and applying make-up. Tilly said that her prototype bionic hand “looks awesome and it makes you feel confident. Instead of people thinking they feel sorry for you because you don’t have a hand, they’re like: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a cool hand!’”
A royalty-free agreement between Disney and the company means the devices can be based characters from Iron Man, Frozen and Star Wars. One of Tilly’s prototype hands is themed on the video game Deus Ex, and she’s currently testing Open Bionics latest model.
Samantha Payne, COO and co-founder of Open Bionics, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with the NHS to create affordable and highly functional prosthetics that children can get really excited about. The bionic arms come with removable covers so users can choose to be an Avenger one day and Queen Elsa the next. These devices can be life-changing.”