This week Joel Gibbard, founder of Bristol-based Open Bionics, has pulled off a world first by using 3D printing and scanning to produce a fully functional custom socket and bionic hand.

The truly inspirational moment was captured when right hand amputee Daniel (pictured on the right) was the first to try this innovative robotic limb and was able to shake hands with Joel.

“It was heartwarming to see something I’ve been working on for a year give someone some extra capabilities,” explained a very pleased Joel. “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.”

“I did get to shake the hand I made on Dan and it was a bit surreal”


Check this awesome video showing amputee, Daniel, shaking hands with the Joel:




Want to see more video footage of this exciting moment? Check out the Open Hand Project’s Vine page.

World first

Although 3D printers have been used to create sockets for robotic prostheses before, this is the first time that a commercially available scanner and printer have ever been used to create both a socket and a robotic prosthesis and fit it to an amputee. It took just 20 minutes to take a 3D scan of Daniel’s right arm and create a mesh ready to print the socket into which Joel’s robotic arm (also 3D printed) would fit.

The socket itself took just 40 hours to print, something that could save thousands of pounds in production time alone. Daniel explained how the fitting process differed to his previous experiences:

“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.”

“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”


After connecting the robotic prosthesis to the custom-printed socket Open Bionics programmer, Ollie McBride, exclaimed:

“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.”

Saving time and money

With standard robotic prostheses costing thousands of pounds and weeks to fit, Joel’s time and cost saving 3D printable and open-source designs mean that, in the very near future, thousands of amputees will be able to benefit from the life-changing affordable robotic prostheses.

IMG_5252-EditUWE Robotics student and electrical engineer at Open Bionics, Patrick Brison (pictured far left), 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.”

It’s a really exciting time for Joel Gibbard and the team at Open Bionics. Not only are they well on track to have some of the first, widely available and affordable robotic prosthesis on the market in the next year, but they’ve also recently been shortlisted in three categories at the SPARKies tech awards in Bath next Thursday and are in the final of the Intel Make It Wearable Challenge!

But there’s no stopping Joel in his mission for the perfect prosthesis; “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.”

“We [also] have some quirky designs for children’s hands that will encourage younger amputees to feel good about their difference.”

You can follow Open Bionics on Twitter at @openbionics. They’re always looking for feedback on their products and ideas so if anyone is interested in what they do then just email