Technology

Incredible 3D-printed bionic arms released in world first

The NHS-tested arms are a particular boon for children and young people.

The world’s first medically certified 3D-printed artificial arms for amputees have been released commercially.

Open Bionics, a Bristol-based robotics company, has been working with NHS England carrying out medical trials for the Hero Arm – an advanced bionic arm small enough to fit children as young as nine years old for the first time.

Bionic limbs are usually sized for teenagers and adults, but these 3D-printed arms can be made to smaller sizes while also being cheaper.

Tilly Lockey, 12, lost both her hands to meningitis as a baby, but has now been fitted with two 3D printed ones – which allow her to brush her hair, paint one handed and can even be personalised with interchangeable covers.

Tilly
Tilly Lockey has been fitted with two of the arms (Open Bionics/PA)
Tilly with arm raised
They can be personalised with interchangable covers (Open Bionics/PA)

“The technology has come such a long way since Tilly was a baby,” said Tilly’s mother, Sarah.

“We were essentially told it was impossible to get her bionic hands because the technology was too big and couldn’t be shrunk down for her.

“It has been incredible to watch Open Bionics. What they are developing, a lot of kids want.

“What went from a sad state of prosthetic design came this explosion; a 3D printed device that was lighter, cheaper, a very stylish design that helped Tilly play with the Wii for the first time without having to sellotape the controller to her arm.”

A bionic arm cutting banana
The company has been working with NHS England (Open Bionics/PA)

A Hero Arm also helped 10-year-old Cameron Millar, who was born without a hand, try archery for the first time.

“I absolutely love my Hero Arm, it’s the one prosthetic that I have used more than any other device I’ve tried,” said Cameron, who had his fitted in Glasgow.

“It’s lighter, it moves better, and is way cooler than any of my previous prosthetics.”

Cameron Millar shaking hands
Cameron Millar approves of the device (Open Bionics/PA)

“We’re incredibly excited to launch the Hero Arm after spending four years working with amputees and healthcare professionals to develop a device that is advanced and low-cost,” said Open Bionics co-founder Samantha Payne.

The UK is the only country in the world to have these devices available, with their US release planned for the end of 2018.

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