A team of engineers at WMG and the University of Warwick with assistance from a collaboration of other companies has created a 3D printed bionic hand that can be produced in 10 hours. The 3D printed bionic arm has muscle sensors to control an articulated thumb and can function similarly to a human hand. The bionic hand is part of the IMPACT project and was made possible thanks to a £900,000 grant from Innovate UK.
The IMPACT hand was developed with inspiration from a similar device created by Ben Ryan, who created an arm for his son when the boy had his forearm amputated after birth. Ryan decided to make his son a new arm. The IMPACT team improved on the design by embedding electrical circuitry linking the motion controlling muscle sensors with the motor and battery into the structure of the bionic hand.
Durability testing was performed by engineers at WMG and the University of Warwick to understand how well the printed circuitry will survive repeated flexing and bending it will experience in use. The team also created a website where a bionic hand can be ordered.
Buyers can insert the measurements for their arm, select the color they want, and the custom 3D printed hand is complete and ready to use in ten hours. The printing process uses a multi-axis, multi-material 3D printer that enables the creation of the hand.
The process of creating the bionic hand involves the laying down of conductive ink tracks within the polymer structure that wasn’t previously possible. The laying down of the conductive ink track means that parts are fully protected right off the machine bed. The team says this offers huge productivity benefits.