Jul 04, 2008
World’s first bionic hand introduced to South AfricaBack
Engineering|Expertise|South|Vancouver|Africa|Components|Design|Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics|System|Touch Bionics|Africa|Canada|South Africa|United Kingdom|High-strength Plastics|Amputation|Johan Snyders|Power|Operations|I-limb Technology|Lower Limb Bionic Technology
© Reuse this Icelandic prosthetic company Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics, which is also based in South Africa, has introduced the world’s first bionic hand, called ‘i-limb’, to the country. The bionic hand was developed by UK-based company Touch Bionics.
“One can perform almost any function with the bionic hand that can be performed by a normal hand. “The fingers are signal dependent, meaning that, when a firm hard signal is given, the hand will close almost immediately, and when a soft signal is given, it will close slowly,” he says.
The bionic hand was developed using leading-edge mechanical engineering techniques, and is manufactured from high-strength plastics. It is controlled through a highly intuitive control system that uses a traditional two- input myoelectric signal to open and close the hand’s fingers.
Myoelectric controls use the electrical signal generated by the muscles in the remaining portion of the patient’s limb. Electrodes on the surface of the skin pick up this signal. Existing users of basic myoelectric prosthetic hands are able to adapt to the new system quickly and can master the device’s new functionality within minutes.
The bionic hand’s thumb can, like a human thumb, be rotated into different positions to enable important grip configurations, many of which have not been available to amputees before. The grasp of the hand is akin to a human hand’s, with the articulating fingers able to close tightly around objects. Built-in detection tells each individual finger when it has sufficient grip on an object and, therefore, when to stop powering. Individual fingers lock into position until the patient triggers an open signal through a simple muscle flex.
While previous myoelectric hands could only be opened and closed, the bionic hand offers numerous grip patterns that enhance dexterity and support almost all daily living activities. For example, patients are now able to point the index finger to operate a keyboard, or to rotate the thumb in order to meet the side of the index finger to hold a plate or turn a key in a lock. None of these functions were possible before.
Snyders says that the muscles that control movement, called flexors and extensors, are still in place after an amputation takes place. He notes that this allows an electrode to be placed on the skin at the position where the maximum impulse originates in the muscle. When an amputee tries to contract that muscle group, an impulse from the electrode will be sent to a power source where it will be enhanced, allowing the user to open and close the hand as well as rotate the wrist, he says.
The bionic hand has an internal micropro-cessor and, with four fully powered fingers and an articulating thumb, users are given the ability to bend, touch and pick up and point, mimicking the movement of a natural hand. Each finger has an individually powered motor located within each digit. Each finger is built to include a gearbox that allows the user to close the hand and as soon as the fingers experience resistance, the gearbox will disengage, allowing the finger to stall in the appropriate position.
Normally, says Snyders, this sort of technology would bypass Africa.
“Icexpress is currently one of a few specialised prosthetic providers in Africa focusing on socket design and amputee rehabilitation. “Our vision is to allow users in Africa to have similar benefits as the rest of the world,” he says.
Snyders admits that the bionic hand is expensive, but adds that as technology becomes more advanced, it will gradually become cheaper. He believes that the breakthrough in the development of the hand could lead to other technological breakthroughs, such as arti- ficial muscles and nerve transplants that will enhance quality of life for amputees in Africa.
The bionic arm had a limited launch in July last year in Vancouver, Canada, and there are now 300 units across the globe.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other News This Week News
Recent Research Reports
Liquid Fuels 2014 - A review of South Africa's Liquid Fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2014 Report examines these issues, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing, competition in the sector, the...
Water 2014: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2014 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
This Week's Magazine
South Africa remains an important manufacturing and export platform for Ford Motor Company, says executive chairperson Bill Ford. However, he adds that other countries on the continent are “becoming interesting”, and that the US carmaker is casting its net wider for...
Germany’s Max-Planck-Society (MPG) and the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPlfR) are investing €11-million (about R150-million) into South Africa’s MeerKAT radio telescope array programme. The money will be used to design, build and install S-band radio...
Infrastructure spend in sub-Saharan Africa will grow from $70-billion in 2013 to $180-billion by 2025, says PwC capital projects and infrastructure Africa leader Jonathan Cawood. This is one of the findings of PwC’s Capital Projects & Infrastructure report on East...
Private-owned defence and aerospace manufacturer Paramount Group and the Ichikowitz Family Foundation unveiled its Anti-Poaching Skills and K9 Training Academy in Magaliesburg last month.
The inclusion of Bluetooth to provide sub-three meter accuracy and heightened functionality for users is one of the ways to change existing wireless networks into engagement networks. An engagement network differs from common wireless networks in that it enables the...