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© openbionics Electronics Production | October 23, 2015

OpenBionics: Affordable Prosthetic Hands

Robotic hands are not cheap; neither are robotic prosthetics. Adding that these prosthetics are usually very sophisticated – which isn't always the best thing in robotics.
It all started at the Control Systems Laboratory of the National Technical University of Athens. A group of researchers (Minas Liarokapis, Agisilaos Zisimatos, Christoforos Mavrogiannis and George Kontoudis) were conducting research on robotic hands, under the supervision of Prof. Kostas Kyriakopoulos. OpenBionics were initially focused on robot hands, but one thing led to another and now, the group also offers an open-source solution for affordable, anthropomorphic prosthetic hands.

That's a long story told short. But when talking to George Kontoudis, one of the guys behind the OpenBionics initiative, you feel that there is something more: an idea that turned into a challenge.

© OpenBionics
“We wanted to follow another path, simplifying the design, providing affordable dexterity. There are some open-source solutions out there, but they are not adequately functional. Our goal was to design prosthetic hands that will be: personalised, affordable, light weight, modular, adaptive, and anthropomorphic and make them available with an open-source dissemination,” explains George.

By keeping their design open-source, they hope that their solution will be shared and adapted and will finally reach those individuals that need it most, the amputees.

“The open-source dissemination facilitates the creation of a community of makers around the prosthesis,” says George. The group is also thinking about creating a company that will market its own products. However, the underlying designs will still be open-source. We are an open-source initiative, we don't care about profit. We will always keep the OpenBionics initiative as an open-source project in order to spread our ideas, exchange opinions with other makers and interact with the makers’ community.”

The team recently won 2015 Robotdalen International Innovation Award. Robotdalen is a Swedish robotics initiative aiming to identify and enable commercial success of ideas and research within the field of robotics.

“After we won the award we started a collaboration with Robotdalen in order to further develop the prosthesis, which is now just a prototype. With the help of Robotdalen we aim to prepare an actual product. Our collaboration will be focused on technology development and commercialization”, George explains.

The team used parametric models derived from human hand anthropometry studies that facilitate the development of personalised prostheses. “In order to prepare a personalized prosthesis we only need two parameters, the hand length and breadth.” George explains. Using this information, the prosthetic hand can be manufactured using off-the-shelf, low-cost materials and a 3D-printer or other rapid prototype techniques such as laser cutter, readily available in hardware stores around the world.

Considering that nowadays commercially available prosthetic hands cost more than USD 20'000, a light-weight, dexterous, anthropomorphic solution that costs the 1/100th of that price… should get some attention.

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