The world’s first clinical trial for 3D-printed bionic hands for children has just begun. If the trial works, bionic hands for children costing £5,000 will become available from the NHS, the UK’s public National Health Services.
Of course, that’s not a small sum. But compare it to the £60,000 that currently available prosthetic limbs cost – and you can see why these bionic hands seem much more affordable.
They are the products of a new lightweight design by Bristol-based firm Open Bionics, who are using cutting-edge 3D scanning and printing technology, which builds the hand from four separate parts, all customised to fit the patient. The hands will be based on popular Disney characters, from Star Wars, Iron Man and Frozen, thanks to a royalty-free agreement with Disney, and can be made in a mere 24 hours.
They also have sensors that attach themselves to the skin to detect the muscle movements of the user, which control the motion of the bionic hand.
Eleven-year-old Tilly Lockey, seen in the video above, is one of 10 children chosen to participate in of the six-month trial. Tilly lost her hands because of meningitis, and tells BBC that she feels confident with her prototype bionic hand, designed after the Playstation game Deus Ex.
The trial is funded by a £100,000 award from the Small Business Research Initiative scheme. If it is successful, the team will apply for a £1 million grant to make the bionic hands available across the UK.
You can watch a video of Tilly trying her hand out here.