LONDON, March 26 (Xinhua) -- A robotic prosthetic hand that can type on a computer keyboard, pick up a telephone and carry out a multitude of tasks has been built by students in Manchester at a bargain-basement price of less than 41000 U.S. dollars.
Advanced robotic prosthetic limbs usually cost between 35,000 U.S. dollars, going up to over 85,000 U.S. dollars if bought privately. Even the more affordable robotic hands with just basic multi-grip functionality still start at 4,1000 U.S. dollars..
The students at the University of Manchester designed and built their 3D printed, low-cost robotic prosthetic hand that could provide a much cheaper alternative for amputees.
The hand's joints are all fully poseable with each individual finger and the thumb being able to move as well as make a fist. The functionality of the hand allows its user to do simple, everyday tasks such as picking up items, eating using a knife and fork, typing and clicking a mouse or opening doors. It can even play rock-paper-scissors.
The students built the hand for just 437 U.S. dollars and they reckon they can make it even cheaper. So impressive is the design, it won "best new development" in the Digital Innovation Challenge at the recent Industry 4.0 Summit and Factories of the Future Expo which was held in Manchester. Industry 4.0 is the term given to what some regard as the fourth industrial revolution.
The hand is the brainchild of final year mechanical engineering Master's student, Alex Agboola-Dobson and his team, Sebastian Preston-Jensen, Panagiotis Papathanasiou and mechanical and software engineers Maximillian Rimmer and Shao Hian Liew.
Agboola-Dobson, aged 23, said: "Not only do we want to make it affordable, we want people to actually like the look of it and not be ashamed or embarrassed of using or wearing it. Some traditional prosthetics can both look and feel cumbersome or, those that don't, are extremely expensive. It is really simple to use. We think our design really can make a difference and we will be looking to commercialise the project in the future."
A spokesman at the university said: "According to the NHS around 6,000 major limb amputations are carried out each year in the UK alone. None-robotic Prosthetic Limbs available on the NHS are either purely cosmetic, whilst other more functional ones are simple plastic-moulded limbs with hooks. This was also another inspiration for the team's futuristic, but life like design."
The hand is controlled by muscle sensors placed on the wearer's arm that can be paired to an app which was also designed by the group. The functionality is customised through the phone app, but the muscle sensors provide the control by moving the hand whenever necessary.