The Dextrus Robotic Hand Wants To Make Advanced Prosthetics 100X Cheaper Via 3D Printing

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The Dextrus hand is the working prototype resulting from Joel Gibbard’s Open Hand Project, an open source hardware initiative that aims to lower the cost of robotic prosthetics dramatically. Dextrus is a fully-functional robotic hand, with features and capabilities similar to leading advanced prosthetics, but at a small fraction of the cost.

A working Dextrus is available through Gibbard’s just-launched Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for £700 for the full prosthetic version of the device, which is around $1,100 U.S. Compare that to $11,000 for the market-leading model back in 2010, for example. Gibbard is able to cut costs in a number of ways, from using less expensive materials in the construction to 3D printing component parts, as well as using existing artificial limb attachment hardware and mounts.

Gibbard, who’s based in Bristol, UK, says that after developing the original Dextrus while studying in school for a Bachelor’s of Engineering in Robotics from the University of Plymouth, and receiving numerous accolades for its design, he realized that making a material impact in the world would require more than just research. The Indiegogo campaign, which is seeking £39,000 in funding, is designed to finance work on the Open Hand Project for an entire year to help translate Gibbard’s academic research into reality.

To test and build the Dextrus, Gibbard has been working with amputee and Chef Liam Corbett, who says he’s already able to do much more with the prototype Dextrus than with the hook prosthesis he used previously.

“Liam’s the perfect candidate for the hand so I’ll be working with him throughout,” Gibbard says of the partnership between the two and their opportunistic meeting. “He’s been searching for a device like this for the last couple of years and got in touch with me through Facebook.” The Dextrus hasn’t yet been tested with other users, Gibbard says, but he’s had discussions with a prosthetist at Bristol’s Southmead hospital, who’s helping him find other good candidates.

To make the dream of an affordable, advanced prosthetic a widely-available reality, Gibbard says that he’d likely require a contract with Britain’s National Health service or similar, and that would probably entail raising at least another £10,000 or so in funding at least, which he says he’d look for from sources other than crowdfunding. The dream is both ambitious and worthy, so here’s hoping the Indiegogo campaign gives this entrepreneur a chance to get to that next stage.