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British National Health Service Begins World’s First Trial of 3D Printed Prostheses

As The Independent reports, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) will be launching “the world’s first clinical trial of [3D printed prostheses]…the 3D printed devices for child amputees, based on popular Disney characters, are designed to be produced at a fraction of the cost of current models.”

This trial will be carried out by Open Bionics, a firm based in the English city of Bristol.  Open Bionics will be “working with 10 children at a local hospital during the six-month trial.”  One such child is Tilly Lockey, “an 11-year-old from Durham who lost her hands after she developed meningitis as a baby.”

Of her new 3D printed prototype bionic hand, Lockey says it “looks awesome and makes you feel confident.  Instead of people thinking they feel sorry for you because you don’t have a hand, they’re like: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a cool hand!’”

Open Bionics’ hands “cost 5,000 pounds [about $6,370] and only take one day to make, using cutting edge 3D scanning and printing techniques to ensure a good fit.  Currently available prosthetics with controllable fingers can cost up to 60,000 pounds [about $76,448], often prohibitive to growing children.”

This new lightweight design by Open Bionics “uses a 3D printer to create the hand in four separate parts, custom-built to fit the patient using scans of their body.  Sensors attached to the skin detect the user’s muscle movements, which can be used to control the hand and open and close the fingers…Open Bionics has won a 100,000 pound [about $127,413] award from the Small Business Research Initiatives scheme to fund the trial, which it is conducting with the North Bristol NHS hospital trust.”

Open Bionics has entered into a royalty-free agreement with Disney, which “means the devices can be based on characters from any Disney property” such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the Star Wars saga.  As for Lockey’s hand, it is based on the cyberpunk video game series Deus Ex.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of the BBC and The Independent

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