> Open Bionics -

Advanced, Affordable And Accessible Bionic Limbs


Open Bionics was founded in 2014 by Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne with the goal of developing affordable, assistive devices that enhance the human body. In other words, Open Bionics turns disabilities into superpowers. The Bristol-based bionics company is known globally for using 3D printing and 3D scanning, along with some clever software and design, to make advanced, affordable and accessible bionic limbs.


In May 2018, following four years of research and development, the company released its first product, the Hero Arm. The Hero Arm is the world’s first medically certified 3D-printed bionic arm, and the very first multi-grip bionic arm for children as young as eight years old. Engineered and manufactured in Bristol, the Hero Arm is a lightweight and affordable myoelectric prosthesis, available now through prosthetics clinics in the UK, USA, France, Spain and Ireland. The company has ambitious plans to launch the prosthesis in new international regions throughout 2019 and 2020.

The Hero Arm has market-leading functionality, weighs less than 1kg, has a breathable and adjustable socket, and can be fitted with customised covers; including Star Wars and Marvel superhero designs. Each Hero Arm is custom-built to ensure a perfect fit. The Hero Arm works by picking up signals from a user’s muscles. When an amputee puts on their bionic arm and flexes muscles in their residual limb just below their elbow, special sensors detect tiny naturally generated electric signals and convert these into intuitive and proportional bionic hand movements. The bionic hand is controlled by tensing the same muscles which are used to open and close a biological hand. Wearers of the Hero Arm can choose between different finger speeds and grips to allow them to pick up objects ranging from a small marble to an entire shopping basket.

Other multi-grip bionic hands, such as the bebionic and ilimb, are prohibitively expensive and too large or heavy for children (and some adults, too). The Hero Arm is less than half the price of these competitors, and because it’s manufactured using 3D printing, it is also the lightest bionic hand on the market. 3D printing is an extremely efficient and suitable manufacturing method for prostheses which are always “one-offs”. Almost all of the 3D printed parts are manufactured using an additive technique called Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which uses a laser as the power source to sinter powdered nylon.

Open Bionics believes that the most advanced prosthetic and orthopaedic technology should be available for everyone that needs it. Open Bionics has a development contract with NHS England, with the aim of offering the Hero Arm on the NHS in the UK. In June 2017, they worked with NHS England and the Bristol Centre for Enablement on a world-first clinical trial of a 3D-printed multi-grip bionic arm. Following a successful first stage of the trial, the company has now begun a second stage of the trial with multiple NHS clinics around the UK.

Open Bionics also has royalty-free licensing agreements with Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Eidos Montreal and Twentieth Century Fox, to offer superhero cover designs such as BB-8, Iron Man and Alita: Battle Angel. They are making science fiction a reality. Their work has received praise from the likes of Mark Hamill and the Dalai Lama, they’ve won a whole host of coveted awards, and their users have featured in media all around the world.

Open Bionics’ lab space is currently located next to the Bristol Robotics Lab, but the rapidly expanding company will soon move to a custom-built production space in the centre of Bristol following a £4.6 million investment round in January 2019 from high profile firms such as F1’s Williams Advanced Engineering. Open Bionics are proud of their Bristol roots, and it’s easy to see Bristol’s punk creativity pumping through the veins of this innovate bionics company. In the near future, Open Bionics looks forward to offering the Hero Arm in multiple international markets and continuing the development of great products that solve challenges within mobility and independence.

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