A 3D printed bionic hand can be made to measure thanks to engineers at WMG, University of Warwick and a collaboration of other companies. The 3D printed IMPACT bionic hand incorporates muscle sensors to control an articulated thumb, enabling it to function similar to a human hand. It can be made to measure in 10 hours in a choice of colors.
Designers and engineers from WMG, University of Warwick and UK industry, have been able to entirely 3D Print the device with embedded electrical circuitry to seamlessly connect sensors and actuators. The IMPACT project, led by Iterate Design and Innovation Ltd, in collaboration with WMG, University of Warwick, C Enterprise (UK) Ltd and Printed Electronics Ltd, was made possible thanks to a grant of nearly £900,000 from Innovate UK, with the aim of developing a 3D printing technology with the ability to print plastic products with integrated electrical circuitry, a capability which they have demonstrated in a bionic hand.
“WMG are delighted to be a partner in the IMPACT project, helping to deliver this innovative and revolutionary technology, which is undoubtedly helping put UK PLC at the forefront of 3D Printing research and development globally,” commented Dr. Greg Gibbons of WMG University of Warwick.
The IMPACT hand has taken inspiration from a similar model developed by Ambionic’s Ben Ryan, whose son had his forearm amputated after birth, and who decided to make him a new one. The IMPACT team took this design further by embedding the electrical circuitry linking the motion controlling muscle sensors with the motors and battery into the structure of the bionic hand, thus providing a durable and aesthetic solution.
Engineers at WMG, University of Warwick have tested the durability of the printed electrical circuitry to understand how well they will endure the bending and flexing that they might experience in use. They also developed a website so that people can interact with the manufacturers to order a 3D Printed hand, allowing them to insert the measurements of their arm, and select what color they want their hand to be, providing them with a tailored and personalized product. Just 10 hours later the hand will be printed with inbuilt sensors and ready for use.
Within the project, Iterate Design and Innovation Ltd developed the design of the hand, including the integration of the electrical circuitry and sensors. Printed Electronics Ltd developed the technology for printing the electrical circuitry within the 3D Printing process and C Enterprise (UK) Ltd developed the multi-axis, multi-material 3D printer that enables the hand to be realized in 3D.
“The IMPACT project has resulted in the creation of an exciting new technology that has the ability to print electro-mechanical parts and assemblies, which weren’t previously possible,” said Gethin Roberts, Project Lead and MD of Iterate Design + Innovation. “Through laying down conductive ink tracks within polymer structures means that parts produced are fully functional straight off the machine bed; offering huge productivity benefits.”