3D printed hand wins award

Open Bionics founder Joel Gibbard has won a prosthetic innovation award for his work developing 3D printed robotic hands for amputees.

The Limbless Association Prosthetic and Orthotics Awards recognise and reward outstanding contributions and achievements in the limb-loss and healthcare communities.

Joel was in a tightly fought category with Lee Duffy who is innovating prosthetic sockets by using natural plant fibre.

Awards judge and presenter Deborah Johnson, from sponsors Slater & Gordon, said the ceremony was an absolute pleasure and she was glad to see Joel pick up a prize.

Deborah said: “I had a very difficult job selecting a winner from the top class nominees but was delighted to be able to present the award for product innovation to Joel Gibbard of Open Bionics for his incredible work on 3D printed robotic prosthetic hands."

Stuart Holt, Limbless Association trustee, said he was happy to see Joel win and urged him to continue developing the 3D printed robotic hands.

Joel said: “We've come along way since we met the Limbless Association over a year ago. We've achieved a huge amount of innovation in the prosthetics sector since. This award is a magnificent validation of the work we've achieved so far and it inspires us to keep pushing forward. It feels great to be recognised and supported by the amputee community, they're driving this technology innovation as much as we are.”

The awards ceremony celebrated inspirational amputees, prosthetists, user groups, and innovators.

Founder of the Year Award

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While Open Bionics was in San Francisco pitching for half a million dollars, our founder Joel Gibbard was named 'Founder of the Year' at The Sparkies awards.

TechSpark set out to shine a light on the 'very best people, products and companies' that make up the tech sector in Bristol, Bath, and the broader West of England region.

The awards celebrate individuals and companies that champion and drive tech innovation in business.

As well as Joel winning 'Founder of the Year', his company Open Bionics made it as a finalist in two other categories.

For the 'Founder of the Year' award judges were looking for someone in the tech community who has consistently demonstrated a significant entrepreneurial spirit and whose digital activity has shown commitment, enthusiasm, success and achievement.

The judges said of Joel and Open Bionics: ‘Brilliant use of new technology to disrupt a tired old sector and transform lives by making prosthetics more capable, affordable and accessible. Joel combines technical brilliance with a positive social mission, making this a real example of entrepreneurship at its best.’

Joel was sad to have missed the annual tech event but had electronics engineer Patrick Brinson to pick up the award for him.

You can see the full list of winners and those nominated here: The Sparkies. 

TechSpark put together this video to celebrate Bristol and Bath's tech scene. Spot our founder and robot hand (we love the ending best).

Open Bionics is based in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a world leading research and innovation centre for robotics.

Prosthetic Innovation Award

Joel Gibbard has been shortlisted for an award celebrating innovation in the prosthetics industry.

Joel Gibbard Open Bionics robotic hand

Limbless Association, who provide support to amputees and the limb-loss community, will host the annual 'Prosthetic and Orthotic Awards' in London on December 3rd.

The awards recognize and reward outstanding contributions and achievements in the limb-loss and healthcare communities and the prosthetic and orthotic industry.

Awards' organiser Ed Pearce said: "I am personally really pleased to see that Joel and Open Bionics have been nominated for the award as they offer the  average amputee a high quality product at a more affordable price."

"We have had dozens of inspirational stories and outstanding candidates and I know the judges have had a difficult task with choosing the winners!"

The awards attract professionals who work in the prosthetics and orthotics industry as well as user groups and inspirational people with limb differences.

Joel Gibbard said: “The awards ceremony will be a fantastic evening. I'm looking forward to meeting the industry professionals and people from the limb-loss community so I can gather their thoughts on our project. There's going to be a room full of people with a lifetime of invaluable experiences and knowledge, so we're very grateful to have been included.”

Joel was nominated because of the work he is doing with Open Bionics. Joel is using new technologies to create affordable robotic hands for amputees that will change the healthcare industry.

Joel is focused on making current high-tech robotic hands that cost anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000 for as little as $1,000. 

Categories for awards include 'The Inspiration Award', 'Life Time Achievement Award', 'Outstanding Service by An Individual', 'Disabled Service Centre or Limb Fitting Centre Award', 'User or Support Group Achievement Award', and the 'Prosthetic Innovation Award'.

Open Bionics' big win from Intel

Open Bionics won $200,000 to continue developing bionic hands after finishing second place in Intel's wearable technology competition.

Intel Make it wearable winners open bionics

Founder Joel Gibbard said: "It has been an awesome experience learning from business experts and the other teams. We're far more customer focused now and the result is going to be a prosthetic that is perfectly suited to the needs of amputees. With the money we've now won we can complete the development of this device and get these hands on amputees."

“We totally believe this money will help to revolutionise the prosthetics industry with the use of 3D scanning and 3D printing technology.”

Joel added: “Team Nixie totally deserved the win, they are an amazing set of people who are using technology to open people's minds about what's possible. Likewise, ProGlove are a team of immense talent and I have no doubt that we will be seeing huge innovations from them in the future. It feels great that the winning teams were all from Europe and that we could represent Bristol and the UK.”

brian krzanich venus williams samantha payne joel gibbard

Open Bionics teammate Sammy Payne, said: "This competition has been incredible. We have come a long way and we're very grateful to the industry experts and mentors in Silicon Valley for their coaching and guidance. We've been overwhelmed with the messages of support from people who need bionic hands and we'll be using the $200,000 prize money to get these prosthetics to those people faster.”

“It feels particularly great as a woman because of the five women who were finalists, two walked away as winners. Both teams that placed first and second were the only teams that had women pitching. I think this speaks a lot to the technology and business industry."

"Having the CEO of Best Buy come over to congratulate me on our pitch was a bit surreal. He said he thought our ideas were amazing and it was great to have his support. It was also pretty fantastic when Stefan Olander from Nike stopped me to say hello and shake my hand. The judges seemed impressed with our pitch and offered some great advice." 

Open Bionics won the biggest applause of the evening when the team told judges their work was open source.

The company plans to use the money to get their 3D printed bionic hands fully developed and through medical testing and FDA approval.

The team is driven to create bionic hands that are affordable, comfortable to wear, and that look inspiring. 

Open Bionics is based inside the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK, it is a world-leading centre for robotics and research. 

Feel free to join the chat, tweet @openbionics!

Open Bionics Pitching In The USA

Open Bionics won a place in a global wearable tech competition put on by Intel in August this year.

After being shortlisted from 400 startups in August, Open Bionics has now reached the final top ten.

open bionics intel

On Saturday Open Bionics will pitch to a panel of judges in San Francisco, including Venus Williams and the chairs of Nike, Best Buy, and Louis Vuitton, in a bid to win $500,000.

Founder Joel Gibbard wants to win the funding so he can develop affordable bionic hands and bring them to market. Joel particularly wants the money to begin developing creative children's hands for young amputees.

He hopes the judges will see how investing in this technology could make a real difference to thousands of amputees.

Joel, and his teammate Sammy Payne, are currently in California learning from UC Berkeley and Intel business mentors.

The competition, called Make It Wearable, is run by Intel and supported by UC Berkeley and Vice.

Here's the video Vice made of the team that has reached over 90,000 views:

The competition pushes startups through rigorous business mentoring, and a business incubation scheme.

Open Bionics is competing against two other teams from the UK. You can see a full list of the ten finalists and their inventions here. The lists includes a wearable selfie drone called Nixie: https://makeit.intel.com/finalists

intel logo with robotic hand

You can show your support for the team by tweeting @Openbionics and using the hashtag #MakeItWearable

World First for 3D Printing and Bionics


Open Bionics has performed a world-first by fitting a person born without a hand with a 3D scanned and 3D printed, custom-fitted prosthetic socket, and robotic hand.

24-year-old engineer and Open Bionics founder, Joel Gibbard used commercially available technology he found online to fit Daniel Melville with his first robotic prosthetic hand.

dan melville shaking hands with open bionics robotic hand

This is the first time Joel's robotic hand has been used as a prosthetic. 

Daniel, 23, from Reading, was born without a right hand and contacted Joel after seeing his crowd-funding campaign to develop affordable robotic hands last year.

The whole of Daniel's family backed Joel's campaign, and Daniel volunteered to help with Joel's initial test period last week, bringing his older brother Jonny Melville along to watch.

Daniel said: “It's just too hard to explain at home. You have to see it to get how awesome it is, so I had to bring him.”

Jonny watched and took photos as his younger brother moved around the room picking up objects and manipulating them with his robotic hand.

The thrilled older brother said: “Shaking Daniel's hand was incredible. It didn't even feel like a robot hand, the way it gripped me, it felt just like Dan was shaking my hand.”

In just 20 minutes Joel scanned Daniel's right arm using a 3D sensor, created a 3D mesh of it, and set up his 3D printer to print Daniel a custom-fitted prosthetic socket.

Although 3D scanning and 3D printing a prosthetic socket has been done before, it was the first time anyone has used the technique to custom fit a 3D printed robotic hand.

The socket, which fit the first time it was printed, took 40 hours to print, and it was the first time Joel had used the 3D scanning software. This is a dramatic reduction in time and cost for the prosthetics industry.

Daniel said: “It fitted like a glove. I can't believe how easy that was. Usually, I'd have to have a mold taken of my arm and then wait weeks or months to get the socket. Last time I had a socket mold on my arm they burnt me taking it off, so this is much nicer.”

Joel was happily surprised, saying: “I didn't expect it to come out so well and fit perfectly. But I am going to change the design a bit in future.”


21-year-old Olly McBride, who studies Robotics at UWE, has been working as a programmer for Open Bionics.

Olly connected the robotic hand to Daniel's muscle signals and said: “The best part was seeing the excitement on Dan's face, as he went round trying to pick up everything he could.”

I never really understood how rewarding it would be. It's not just a product  that people buy for a bit of fun and then get bored of, this product will play a major part in their lives.”

Daniel said he stopped wearing his cosmetic prosthetic hand after it kept 'getting in the way' and wished he had a robotic prosthetic hand that looked 'cool' when he was younger.

He added: “This is great now and it will continue to get better but it would have been amazing to have this when I was younger. I would have loved a 3D printed Power Ranger hand. It would have made me feel better about my difference, I think. There are robotic hands out there that I can buy now but they're more expensive than my car. Who can afford that?”

Joel said: “It was heartwarming to see something I've been working on for a year give someone some extra capabilities. Watching Dan write, pick things up, and just play with stuff was pretty exciting for everyone. I did get to shake the hand I made on Dan and it was a bit surreal.”

The next hand I've designed weighs half the amount as that prototype which will make a huge difference for the user and it looks far better.”

Joel admitted he was afraid he was going to be guilty of 'over-engineering' his open source robotic hands.

He said: “I'm not going to be able to stop until I've made something that is perfect. It has to be light-weight, low-cost, and creative. It has to offer something.”

We have some quirky designs for children's hands that will encourage younger amputees to feel good about their difference.”

Patrick Brinson, who also studies Robotics at UWE and works as an electronics engineer for Open Bionics said the first testing stage was 'very touching' to see.

The 22-year-old undergraduate said: “It was great seeing for the first time the mechanical, electronic, and software working as one to give Dan the ability to have a hand he can control. It will give him the ability to do tasks most of us take for granted.”

Patrick added: “It was a great insight into seeing how modern technology can be used to help those less fortunate than others, if there were only more people like Joel in the world putting technology to good use. I can’t wait to see how Open Bionics will change hundreds of people’s lives across the world and I'll be here to help along every step of development.”

Open Bionics, which is based at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, one of the world's leading centers for robotics, hopes to have an affordable robotic prosthetic on the market next year.

Tweet us your thoughts @openbionics

Open Bionics Shortlisted for Tech Awards

TechSparkUK's SPARKies awards celebrate 'the best in west' in the world of technology, engineering, and digital creativity.

This year, judges had to whittle down over 220 nominations for the fourteen categories. The judges said candidates had to show a number of traits including 'digital creativity,' 'big ideas,' and 'ingenuity'.

Open Bionics made the shortlist for two of the categories and is in with a chance to win the 'Best Startup' award and the 'From Chips to...' award (a category that celebrates innovative uses of hardware).

Open Bionics founder, Joel Gibbard, was also shortlisted for the 'Founder / Entrepreneur of the Year' award. Check out the competition here: The Shortlist.

Rumour has it the awards ceremony will be hosted by Bath's leading comedian, Tom Craine.

It has been a good year for Open Bionics. The business has won a number of awards and grants and is currently in the running to win $500,000 from Intel's Make It Wearable competition.

If you want to receive the latest news (& videos of awesome robot hands) from Open Bionics sign up for our newsletter at the top of the page!

Limbcare Backs Open Bionics

A leading organisation for amputees has thrown their weight behind the work at Open Bionics.

Limbcare is a charity set-up by quadruple amputee Ray Edwards MBE, who lost his limbs after contracting septicemia.

The organisation offers hope, guidance, advice and peer support to those with limb differences and those around them.

Joel recently met with Ray and his team to discuss the future of prosthetics and seek his judgement on the latest robotic hand prototypes.

Ray said: “It is just fantastic. This is the future and they're doing it to help people. We're right behind them and we're incredibly happy to support their work. This technology is going to change lives. It's going to help so many people. 3D printing hands is a brilliant idea.”

Ray is an unstoppable force of nature and has offered to put the latest robotic prosthetics through rigorous testing. He said he particularly enjoyed how Open Bionics is making their hands light-weight and low cost.

Ray is an advocate for amputee awareness and spends much of his time around the country educating people about what it means to be an amputee.

Joel said he couldn't think of  better a better person to test his prototypes.

Open Bionics Nominated for Tech Awards

Open Bionics, The Open Hand Project, and our founder Joel Gibbard, have been nominated for three technology awards.

TechSparkUK recently broke the news that over 220 people, organisations, and businesses, across the South West have been nominated for the Sparkies awards.

Among those nominated are, Vouchercloud, Engine Shed,  fellow Bristol Robotics Laboratory start-up founder Silas Adekunle, and Bristol Braille Technology who are working to radically reduce the cost of expensive Braille displays.

Joel said: “Bristol has been recognised as a hub of engineering and technology excellence and it's fantastic to be a part of this growth.

The Sparkies awards give just a little insight into what is going on in the South West tech scene. I'm thrilled that my project, business, and work are included.

It's really great to see projects, that are using technology to better people's lives and make a real impact, recognised and nominated.”

These nominations came after Joel was named 'Young Design Engineer of The Year' at the British Engineering Excellence Awards.

Read what the TechSparkUK founder, David Maher Roberts, had to say about the awards in the Bristol Post (we even got a shout-out!): Sparkies are proof Bristol and Bath is already a world-class cluster

Wonder if it was the Adams Hand that caught their eye... 

Young Design Engineer of the Year Award

Open Bionics founder, Joel Gibbard, won a prestigious award last week at the British Engineering Excellence Awards.

The awards celebrate UK companies and individuals that have shown the skills, invention, and dedication to compete and succeed on an international stage within the engineering space.

Photo Credit:  BEEAs

Photo Credit: BEEAs

Joel was nominated for the Young Design Engineer of the Year award by a friend from his old employers, National Instruments (NI). NI played a huge supporting role in Joel's successful crowd-funding campaign for The Open Hand Project.

There were four young engineers short-listed for the award and the judges said it was the most 'tightly-fought' category.

Joel won the award for his low-cost 3D printed bionic hand innovation after lengthy deliberation from judges.

The judges said they were impressed by the open source nature of his work and that his design would hugely benefit many people.

Joel said: “I was lucky to have been nominated and feel even luckier to have won. The whole event inspired me to think of the future of engineering.

Advances in technology have the power to change lives for the better. It can be used for good on a huge scale and creative innovators are very much needed to push for this. Just think of the possibilities for future generations.”

Joel said he's keeping his trophy at home where he can keep an eye on it.

What the judges said of Joel: “A highly motivated, dedicated young engineer with multidisciplinary skills and an impressive record of achievement already.”