Wave around the world 

A project conceived and produced by BNP Paribas

BionicoHand

A bionic, open source prosthetic hand

Project initiated in 2013 at Rennes

Created by the My Human Kit association, BionicoHand is an enhanced (poly-digital) myoelectric prosthesis, designed to help people with hand-related disabilities to regain their independence in their daily lives (social life, work, transport, etc.). Entirely open source and printed in 3D, the most remarkable feature of the prosthesis, developed by Nicolas Huchet and his team of enthusiasts, is its low manufacturing cost compared to the tens of thousands of euros needed to buy one manufactured using ‘traditional’ production techniques.

BionicoHand at the Geek Picnic in St Petersburg (Russia) in August 2014. From left to right: Thomas Meghe, Nicolas Huchet, and Elena Anfalova. © Thomas Mortier

BionicoHand at the Geek Picnic in St Petersburg (Russia) in August 2014. From left to right: Thomas Meghe, Nicolas Huchet, and Elena Anfalova. © Thomas Mortier

BionicoHand at the New York Maker Faire on 20/9/14. © Richard De Logu

BionicoHand at the New York Maker Faire on 20/9/14. © Richard De Logu

Students at the technical high school in Cesson-Sévigné (35) participate in manufacturing the hand. © Miguel Templon

Students at the technical high school in Cesson-Sévigné (35) participate in manufacturing the hand. © Miguel Templon

The composition of the team changes frequently and includes nearly a dozen people (a person with disabilities, an engineer, a student, etc.). At the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Rennes, July 2014. © Thomas Mortier

The composition of the team changes frequently and includes nearly a dozen people (a person with disabilities, an engineer, a student, etc.). At the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Rennes, July 2014. © Thomas Mortier

« The real change is the access to digital tools. Everyone who wants to can learn.  »

History of the project

Nicolas Huchet, whose right hand was amputated when he was 18 after an accident at work (2002), was given a myoelectric (opposable pinch) prosthesis whose functionality was very limited. He knew that there were new prostheses described as “poly-digital” (able to grasp with more than one finger), but he was also aware of their exorbitant price, which is not reimbursed by social security... He discovered a fab lab in Rennes, his home town, in October 2012, and asked the makers from LabFab if it was possible to manufacture a robotic hand. They listened and took his question seriously, then talked to him in more detail about 3D printing and open source design (Arduino, Thingiverse, InMoov, etc.).

A whole world opened up in front of Nicolas. He became aware of the power of ordinary people to change things. Encouraged by those around him, he launched BionicoHand in February 2013. His idea was to use this technology to help other disabled people, both in France and in developing countries. To get things moving, he got involved with research and development projects at Johns Hopkins University (Washington) and the BioRobotics Institute of Pisa (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna).

In October 2013, the Maker Faire of Rome, one of the key events for makers of all kinds, presented BionicoHand with an award and gave it a truly international stage. The project has also received awards at Maker Faires in San Francisco, Paris and New York. A few weeks later, in January 2014, the association My Human Kit was created to give legal status to the project, so that it could obtain funding and collaborate more effectively with other players (universities, research centres, etc.). Now with a team of nearly a dozen people, Nicolas Huchet aspires to continue to develop BionicoHand so that he can keep changing his own future for the better, as well as the futures of other hand amputees. 

+10
people are working on the project
75
people out of the 300 who lose a hand each year in France choose a myoelectric prosthesis
200€
the average price of the open source prototype, compared to €30,000 to €70,000 for a commercially manufactured prosthesis, with no reimbursement from social security programmes
« BionicoHand still needs to find a business model to fund its research and development efforts, such as humanitarian projects »

Interview with Nicolas Huchet, creator of BionicoHand

How does a myoelectric hand work?

It’s an electric hand controlled by muscle sensors. A bit like switches, they convert muscle contractions into instructions that control the prosthesis. The electricity produced is sent to an electronic card, which controls the motors. These motors open or close the hand, following the muscular contraction.

What motivates you?

My primary motivation is to improve my own situation. I’ve had a prosthesis for 12 years, and I know that they’ve come a long way, and they now allow quite a lot of movement. But they’re prohibitively expensive. I want to break down that barrier. Apart from my own case, I want to help those who don’t have access to this technology, both in France and abroad. It’s true to say that this commitment is something that makes my life and my accident meaningful – and what’s more, it lets me indulge my passion for technology...

And what are your plans for the future?

With My Human Kit and the other makers who are involved, I’d like to find sponsors or launch a crowdfunding campaign to build a handilab – a place dedicated to health-related projects (hearing aids, eyeglasses, sonar, and so forth). But these are areas that are beyond my skill set! The coming months will also be devoted to creating a business model for BionicoHand, because as it stands, I don’t really have the means to develop it.

Flora Clodic-Tanguy

« Now that I’ve been able to improve my own situation, I want to share these advantages with others. »

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