Bionic hand breaks touch-control barrier with five powered fingers

17 July 2007. Español  Deutsch

Edinburgh, UK. Touch Bionics has launched a prosthetic hand with five individually powered fingers. Called the i-LIMB Hand, it has already been successfully fitted to a significant number of patients in the United States and Europe.

Photo of the i-Limb hand holding a coin

The i-LIMB Hand and ProDigits will be formally unveiled later this month at the 12th World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics in Vancouver, Canada.

The company also has a partial hand, ProDigits, which is adapted for patients who have a partial hand, due either to congenitally missing fingers or fingers lost through an accident. Partial hand is an area of prosthetics that has been without suitable powered products in the past.

The i-LIMB Hand offers a unique, highly intuitive control system that uses a traditional myoelectric signal input to open and close the hand’s life-like fingers. Myoelectric controls utilize the electrical signal generated by muscles in the remaining portion of a patient’s limb. This signal is picked up by electrodes that sit on the surface of the skin. Users of existing, basic myoelectric prosthetic hands are able to quickly adapt to the system and can master the device’s new functionality within minutes. For new patients, the i-LIMB Hand offers a multi-function prosthetic solution that has never before been available.

One of the recipients of the hand is Sergeant Juan Arredondo of Universal City, Texas, who lost his hand in Iraq in 2004 after his patrol vehicle was struck by an explosive device.

Sergeant Juan Arredondo wearing the i-Limb hand"Everyday that I have the hand, it surprises me," said Sgt. Arredondo, who was with the 2nd Infantry Division, 1/506th Destroyer Company. "Now I can pick up a Styrofoam cup without crushing it. With my other myoelectric hand, I would really have to concentrate on how much pressure I was putting on the cup. The i-LIMB hand does things naturally. I can just grab the cup like a regular person."

Lindsay Block of Oklahoma City, OK, has had a lifetime of experience with prosthetics. Born missing the lower part of her left arm as the result of a birth defect, Ms. Block, now 26, has used almost every new generation of prosthetic technology since being fitted with her first one when only six months old. She is particularly impressed both by the life-like look of the i-LIMB and by its extensive range of motion.

Lindsay Block holding an apple with her prosthetic hand

"When I’m wearing the i-LIMB Hand, I’m pretty sure that someone who doesn’t know me wouldn’t even guess that it wasn’t my own hand," she said. "It’s cool how it can adjust to whatever it is grabbing on to. With this new hand, you don’t have to strategize so much about what you do with it because you realize it’s not limited and will adjust depending on what it’s gripping on to."

"We are delighted to be the company that moves bionic hand technology from the research and development phase into the real world, and to lead a generational advance in bionics and patient care," said Touch Bionics CEO Stuart Mead. "We have always existed to change the lives of patients with severe injuries and disabilities, and it is thrilling to feel that we are now able to accomplish that goal."

"I was amazed by how quickly I could learn to do things with the i-LIMB Hand, even only an hour after being fitted with the hand," said Donald McKillop of Kilmarnock, Scotland, one of the first patients to be fitted with the i-LIMB Hand. "The most important thing is the movement of the fingers, that’s what really makes the difference. It’s truly incredible to see the fingers moving and gripping around objects that I haven’t been able to pick up before. The hand does feel like a real replacement for my missing hand and it is now very natural for me to pick up all sorts of objects. It makes everyday activities much easier."

Touch Bionics has developed a custom cosmesis, or covering, for its products. i-LIMB Skin is a thin layer of semi-transparent material that has been computer-modeled to accurately wrap to every contour of the hand.

"Cosmesis is a hugely important area in prosthetics, both for appearance and for durability reasons. It is a vital component of our solution and brings an added dimension of personal comfort and satisfaction to our patients," said Mead. "Some patients, especially soldiers, love the more robotic look of the i-LIMB Skin, but others like their device to blend anatomically with the rest of their body, and prefer to have a life-like covering for the i-LIMB Hand and ProDigits."

For those patients who desire a more life-like appearance for the hand, Touch Bionics has partnered with some leading companies in the development of cosmesis for its products. ARTech Laboratories and LIVINGSKIN are collaborating with Touch Bionics to offer patients a life-like solution to compliment the life-like motions and performance of the hand.

To top 

Save this page on

To top