Nigel Ackland worked as a metal smelter until six years ago, when he had a workplace accident that involved an industrial blender. His right forearm was crushed, and after many surgeries and infections his arm was amputated below the elbow. Thanks to a new prosthetic called the bebionic3, Ackland now uses his Terminator-style arm to do everyday tasks that were impossible before he received the bionic hand.
RSLSteeper, a British company, developed the prosthesis. The arm is made from a carbon-fiber body, which keeps it light and strong. The knuckles are made of aluminum and alloy. Different motors are involved in the movement of each finger, which allows for more accuracy in movement and grip strength.
The device is controlled by reading the myoelectric signals that are produced by the existing muscles. The signal is amplified, and the message sent to the bionic hand. For example, tensing the one outer muscle causes the hand to open, while tensing another causes it to close. When both muscles are tensed, the hand closes and the wrist rotates. The pressure of the grip is controlled by the strength of the muscle contraction.
All in all, there are eight grips that are programmed into the hand. With a quick movement of the thumb, another set of grips is possible. As you can see in the video, with enough practice it is possible to exert enough force to open a bottle top, but the hand can also be gentle enough to grasp an egg without crushing the shell.
“Having a bebionic hand is like being human again, psychologically I wouldn’t be without it. I can hold the phone, shake hands and wash my left hand normally, which I haven’t been able to for five years,” exclaimed Ackland.
“I’m back to being a two finger typist and can even do a very interesting hand signal which I call the 15th function, not particularly functional perhaps, but the psychological benefit is immense,” Ackland added. “Overall, the bebionic hand has had a great impact on my life; not only does it look more like a human hand but it also functions more like a human hand.”
So far, as many as 50 people have had the opportunity to use the bebionic3. The cost of the hand is high, but it is covered by many insurance policies as well as Medicare. A skin-colored glove is available to make the hand look more realistic.
Do you know of anyone would could benefit from this new bionic technology?