Matt Thompson has created a low-cost Myo prosthetic hand for the developing world

Low-cost bionic hand for Third World amputees

A hi-tech artificial hand costing just £200 has been designed by a University of Derby student hoping to help amputees in the Third Word.

The ‘Myo’ low-cost prosthesis is one of a range of new products created by the University’s final year students, which will be on display at the New Designers 2014 exhibition, at London’s Business Design Centre, from Thursday until Saturday.

Matt Thompson, 24, who has just completed a BSc (Hons) Product Design Engineering degree course at Derby, designed his Myo hand for lower arm amputees with developing and Third World countries in mind.

The arm is controlled using electromyography – a way of reading the electrical activity of muscles used in many artificial limbs – thanks to three electrodes running from the Myo hand to the real upper arm of the amputee, who would be taught to control the prosthetic hand using the upper arm’s individual muscle movements.

“Disease and war unfortunately means there’s a lot of demand for prosthetic limbs in poorer countries,” said Thompson.

“Researching the subject, I found out that upper limb prostheses are more complicated and expensive than lower limb ones, and also that good ones are beyond the financial reach of most people living in those countries.

“It cost me about £200 in materials to build the Myo hand. It’s made of a tough nylon resin called Zytel with non-slip grips for the fingers. The fingers are fully articulated and what will really bring the cost of the hand’s electronics down is that I replaced the many individual motors for different actions, with just two, which will work off a rotating disc in the Myo’s wrist.”

Thompson will be showing models of the Mylo at the New Designers Exhibition, which features more than 3,000 newly-graduated designers from the UK's leading universities, and will shortly be producing a fully-functioning prototype.

“I don’t think anyone else has managed to create a low-cost artificial hand where, effectively, one control disc could make all of the hand’s fingers move independently. I’m hoping the Myo can be refined and mass marketed, to bring its costs down even further.

“I believe it could make life a lot easier for many upper limb amputees in poorer parts of the world,” added Thompson, who is originally from Ipswich.

Having just completed his degree course, Thompson has already secured a designer role with the 3form Design company, based in Andover, Hampshire.

Dan Garner, programme leader for Thompson’s course, said: “The Myo is an amazing and innovative piece of work by Matt, with a real chance of making a big social impact. It is the kind of ingenuity and enterprise we encourage on the university’s product design courses.”

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