What began as a university project has become a full-time occupation for Joel Gibbard, founder of prosthetics manufacturer Open Bionics.
Founded in 2014, the business aims to address the shortfall of accessible, affordable prosthetics for the world’s estimated two million hand amputees, creating bionic hands which use sensors to detect muscle movements and provide grip and pressure control for users.
“I’ve worked on creating affordable bionic hands for the past four years, and co-founded Open Bionics half way through that time,” Joel says. “I did all of the original designs and prototypes, and released the open-source designs, which have been used all over the world in leading research into prosthetics.”
Open Bionics has received regular recognition for its innovations and was winner of the 2015 James Dyson award for its 3D-printed prototype. The business has now started selling its first product, a developer kit for universities.
Working with Disney, Joel has also created a range of bionic hands for children, inspired by film franchises including Iron Man, Star Wars and Frozen. “I’m most proud of the work we did at the Disney Techstars Accelerator, where we successfully made two of the world’s smallest bionic hands in the style of Iron Man and Star Wars, and fitted them to two children with limb differences,” he says.
For Joel, the work of Open Bionics is part of a wider need to make health technology affordable for the greatest number of people: “Everyone should have access to great healthcare and it shouldn’t have to cost the earth.”