Work by a technology whizz kid born with one hand has helped pioneer low cost bionic hands for children.
Daniel Melville tested the world’s first 3D printed multi-grip bionic hand which was made especially for him.
“Three years ago I used it to shake my brother Jonny’s hand, with ‘my’ right hand. That was amazing,” he said.
Based on their early work, the developers, Open Bionics, have launched the world’s first trial of 3D printed bionic hands for children. It’s hoped they’ll be available later, on the NHS.
The hands can be styled on Marvel’s Iron Man, the Star Wars lightsaber or Frozen’s Snowflake theme. In the past bionic hands with movable, working fingers have been too expensive for most people.
Mr Melville said that the use of 3D printing will cut the cost of bionic hands from tens of thousands of pounds to a few thousand. He used special 3D printers that make plastic-based objects from thin layers built up on each other.
He has never known anyone get a conventional bionic hand on the NHS.
Mr Melville’s work with Open Bionics has just won him a world record in the 2018 Guinness Book of Records Gamer’s edition.
Mr Melville, 26, of Twyford and former pupil at The Emmbrook School, Wokingham, is the first person to wear a bionic hand based on a video game and is in the style of the Adam Jensen character in Deus Ex video games.
He has demonstrated the hand in Los Angeles, Dubai and Berlin.
“They were very cool events, very me. I’m a bit of a geek. I played the games as a kid and being part of it (at the presentations) was absolutely surreal,” he said.
“I’ve shown people it’s a cosplay [dressing up as game or film character] piece but it’s also functional, something I can use. It’s life changing.”
He has demonstrated using the hand to hold an apple as he eats it and to remove a water bottle top.
He has also been on television, on Channel 5’s Gadget Show, ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Sky and BBC West.
There are plans now for Mr Melville to test a 3D bionic hand at home for the first time. “When it’s my round I’ll be able to use two hands to carry the drinks on a tray from the bar,” he joked.
He added: “When I was growing up I wanted a bionic hand but they were too expensive.
The ‘bog standard’ NHS prosthetic hand did literally nothing. I felt more disabled, people could immediately work out it was a prosthetic. My NHS myoelectric hand with an open and close function wasn’t helpful for me.
“With the Open Bionic hands, people don’t say ‘What happened to your hand? It’s more like ‘Wow, that’s amazing. How does it work? What does it do?’ ”
“To find Open Bionics were developing an affordable bionic hand, I was jumping on that train right away.”
He became a volunteer tester and suggested improvements.
Seeing 3D printing inspired him to start his own business, Handy Dan’s 3D Prints.
The Prince’s Trust, founded by Prince Charles, has already given business advice. In November Daniel will present his business plan to a trust panel, hoping for their official backing.
Mr Melville already produces objects ordered via www.handydans3dprints.co.uk. He makes mobile phone stands, vases, 3D versions of photos, home tidiers and anything else needed.
“If you can think it, you can print it,” he said.
Mr Melville pays tribute to his “really inspiring” grandparents George Melville, a carpenter, and Arthur Pearson, an optical engineer, for their influence over design and way of thinking.
He is proud to use Mr Pearson’s workshop for his own business.