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The Open Hand Project- 3D Printed Robotic Prosthetics

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by Startacus Admin

Yesterday we announced that our current self starter of the week is a gentleman from Bristol named Joel Gibbard. Joel is the brains and passion behind a really interesting enterprise called ‘The Open Hand Project’ which has made incredible strides in the development of affordable robotic prosthetic hands.The Open Hand Project

Using one of our absolute favourite things (3D Printing) , and his expert knowledge gained through a first class honours degree in Robotics from the University of Plymouth, Joel has managed to create state of the art robotic prosthetics which cost up to 100 times less than their traditionally manufactured counterparts.

This is of course brilliant news, but what we like most about The Open Hand Project is Joel’s determination to proceed in a way that benefits those who need his products and not shareholders.

“I’m driven purely by my passion for robotics” says Joel “but I get a huge amount of satisfaction by trying to apply it a way that can benefit people”

That gets a big thumbs up from us!

Now is the point where we would normally talk you through some of the specifics of what Joel does and the products that he produces… but being rather novice when it comes to all things robotic, we thought it best to leave the heavy lifting to this, much more eloquent video.

The Open Hand Project

That video was from his recent crowdfunding campaign which managed to raise £45,000 and funded the initial stages of the project.

We caught up with Joel and he told us about The Open Hand Project, 3D printing and Bristol's recent tech boom.

Do you think that the company will ever be able to grow to the size it needs to make a real difference without reaching out to the business community for funding?

Yes I do, there are a few reasons I don't want business investors, one is because of the financial pressure and another is because I want to keep full control over the project. I don't think this will hold the company back in the long term. When 3D printing is your manufacturing technique, it's possible to start small and grow gradually. You don't have the initial £200000 overheads that you would need to "tool up" for injection moulding or casting or milling metals. Just £1000 for a 3D printer. I'm hoping that I'll be able to create a distributed manufacturing network, which will save on delivery costs and help economic development in the countries that are making the hands. With this technology, there's no need to outsource everything to the East to try and cut costs.

We are crazy about 3D printing and are always hearing about the amazing things that it is capable of! But, we never see anything ‘in the flesh’ as it were, unless it is being exhibited as a demonstration of what the technology is capable of. Realistically how long do you think it is likely to be before the use of 3D printed products becomes commonplace rather than something to marvel at?

Great question. This trend in technology frustrates me too, for instance we are constantly hearing about the huge potential of things like Graphene and Nanotechnology and Quantum computing. The nature of new technology is that it is somewhat experimental. In some instances 3D printing is already being used to create products, for example the Robohand project or the Lulzbot 3D printers. In the vast majority of cases however it still isn't a cost effective solution, with large volumes injection moulding of plastic is more preferable and in small volumes LASER cutting is much faster if it can be used. I'm choosing 3D printing because it is cost effective for the low volumes of sales that I'm expecting (not that many people have a hand amputation). I'm expecting to be selling 3D printed products later this year, with my prosthetic hands going on sale in 2015.

As you we have just ended our Bristol startup month here at Startacus and we’ve been really amazed at the tech boom that seems to be taking place in the city. If you had to pitch Bristol as a place to establish a tech business what would you say

Bristol has a lot going for it for tech startups. There is a tight network here and everyone gets to know everyone. The result is that it's quite easy to find great people to get advice from. Every startup goes through similar problems and there are plenty of networking events where you can talk to people who have experienced them. I work from the Technology Incubator at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory along with several other technology Startups. It's like being part of one big team that are doing several projects; we all talk to each other and share ideas and skills and even funding opportunities.

Thanks for the chat Joel and best of luck with The Open Hand Project,

If you are interested in 3D printing why not check out our recent post- 3D Technology and its possible applications.

Also dont forget to check out everything that we featured in our Bristol Startup Month.

If you like what you see here on Startacus, why not become a member of our growing community? It's free! And you'll get all this - exclusive access to our Business Toolkit, discounts and offers galore for your business via our member only business deals, the chance to network and connect with loads of fellow self-starters, and maybe even become our celebrated 'Self-Starter of the Week' and tell the world your startup tale! Join right here for free...

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Published on: 1st July 2014

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