Plymouth graduate wins UK James Dyson Award for 3D-printed hand

Joel Gibbard left a job with an engineering company to dedicate himself to his invention. Credit: Open Bionics

A Plymouth graduate who started trying to make a better prosthetic hand while at university has won the UK's 2015 James Dyson Award.

25-year-old Joel Gibbard achieved a First-Class Robotics degree in 2011, and has since created a ground-breaking robotic hand for amputees, through his company, Open Bionics.

Using 3D printing, the hand can be made in just 40 hours for under £2,000 - a fraction of the cost of conventional prosthetics.

It allows an amputee to do the same things as a traditional, expensive prosthetic hand, right down to individual finger movements, by using electromyographical sensors which are stuck to their skin.

“We’ve encountered many challenges in designing our hands but the reactions of the individuals we help fuels our perseverance to bring them to market. My aim is for Open Bionics to disrupt the prosthetics industry by offering affordable prosthetics for all.”

– Joel Gibbard, winner, 2015 National UK James Dyson Award

“I am impressed by how much Open Bionics can improve lives of amputees. By listening to the potential users, Joel is providing the functionality they want at low cost – making appropriate use of technology and 3D printing.”

– Anne Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and national James Dyson Award judge

"By using rapid prototyping techniques, Joel has initiated a step-change in the development of robotic limbs. Embracing a streamlined approach to manufacturing allows Joel's design to be highly efficient, giving more amputees’ access to advanced prosthetics.”

– Sir James Dyson, inventor

Joel gets £2,000 for his win - which he intends to spend on a new 3D printer - and advances to the international stage of the competition, in which Dyson engineers whittle 100 entries from around the world down to just 20.

The results will be announced next month, with the winner awarded £30,000 to work on their invention.