Socio-technical materials for prosthetic hands

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: Social Digital

Abstract

This project explores how engineering design, collaborative design, materials culture, digital fabrication and service design can be combined to revolutionise the personal selection of materials in prosthetic hands. Prosthetics is one industry in which the use of materials is inherently socio-technical: a prosthetic hand is not just a medical device or a tool, but an extension of its wearer's identity. Currently the aesthetics of prosthetic hands are polarised between 'realistic' (or uncanny) silicone gloves and cyborg-like robotic hands. Many amputees feel that neither of these alternatives fit their own body image. Our radical proposal for a materials-led approach to personalised manufacture would offer a common design in a combination of materials chosen by the wearer, ranging from new, unfamiliar materials to everyday materials that are rich in cultural associations and resonances. Given that each material choice may imply a different manufacturing process, we will explore how accessible digital fabrication could make this inclusive and empowering approach to prosthetics viable and affordable.

The project's second, complementary aim is to gain an in-depth understanding of how this particular application might catalyse a more sophisticated socio-technical engagement with materials across digital fabrication as a whole. The uptake of 3D printing can lead to a reliance on materials that can be directly printed, actually reducing our engagement with a richer material culture. Bespoke fabrication is currently usually restricted in scale, colour and materials. Offering a wider palette of materials implies a wider service, beyond individual digital fabrication facilities. This project will examine how a network of digital fabrication facilities could be combined to afford a choice of materials within the same design. We believe this case study of prosthetic hands will grant unique perspectives and inspire innovative approaches to bespoke inclusive manufacturing in other sectors. This project will illustrate how supposedly niche applications can unlock radical new practices across manufacturing as a whole.

The research will be carried out in five workstages:
'Participatory workshops', in which we will explore materials by making hands with diverse participants, including amputees, prosthetists, material scientists, designers and other makers;
'Co-designing prostheses', in which we will collaborate with a few chosen amputees to design representational prototypes of prosthetic hands in materials of their choosing;
'Designing the service', in which we will conceive of the network and service that would be needed to support this degree of choice, and prototype the user's experience of such a service;
'Looking beyond prosthetics', in which we interview further stakeholders and extract a set of generic design principles for wider digital manufacture;
'Exhibition and dissemination', in which we will stage a public exhibition to illustrate inclusive manufacturing.

Outputs will include a collection of co-designed material hands, a public exhibition of these, a prototyped user experience of the service, an edited video documenting our processes, a technical report aimed at the digital fabrication sector and articles in peer-reviewed materials science and design journals (e.g. Materials & Design; the Design Journal). This project will encourage a more creative, participatory approach to design, involving users as partners in the creation of new products. It will also influence the materials science, engineering and manufacturing communities by drawing attention to user and design-driven requirements for new materials, influencing research agendas and promoting design-led materials science in other bespoke applications.

Planned Impact

Societal benefits
For people without a hand, many of whom do not feel comfortable with the choices of prosthesis currently available to them, this research represents an opportunity to influence future research priorities and design directions. In a field in which the alternatives are so polarised and entrenched, this research will unlock new ways of designing and manufacturing prosthetic hands.
It will also open new ways of thinking about the role of assistive technology. The need to move from a 'medical model' of disability to a 'social model' has long been recognised (for so long that the debate has become more nuanced) yet this is not reflected in the design of prosthetic hands that still allude to replacement limbs or the technology within. Moving from a model in which a prosthetist prescribes a hand toward one in which a person without a hand co-creates their own hand is a radical and appropriate revolution.
Across society, accessible digital fabrication is a tool for societal change and social empowerment. A collaborator on this research, MAKLab, is an open access digital fabrication charity with an agenda of social change, creating facilities in rural areas in the north of Scotland as well as in Dundee City's Central Library. The ability to make objects and also the activity of making objects are empowering - a tangible illustration of what might be achieved by other communities and social groups, drawing the focus from the technology itself to what might be collectively achieved with it.

Economic benefits
Given the importance of the Creative Industries in the UK economy, and the increasing importance of the UK's Digital Economy, the potential economic impact of the dissemination of digital fabrication throughout UK industry is large. Within manufacturing industry, digital fabrication is redefining the relationship between creative and industrial partners, between prototyping and production - and in doing so, between the UK and its collaborators and competitors.
Within a global prosthetics industry, the UK has pioneered research into robotic hands over many decades, resulting in the Touch Bionics 'i-Limb' and Steeper 'bebionic' hand and the significance of these products to those companies. But a social-led approach to prosthetics has begun elsewhere, such as the San Francisco start-up Bespoke Innovations using digital fabrication to offer prosthetic legs that are neither cosmetic or carbon fibre blades. Given the depth of creative industry, digital economy and maker culture (not to mention a tradition of bespoke tailoring), the UK is well-placed to lead a revolution in bespoke prosthetic hands.

Creative benefits
The research will be of interest to other creative fields in which bespoke fabrication and materials selection are combined. These include fashion design, jewellery, furniture design and architecture that each have a deep engagement with materials, yet could further embrace digital fabrication. The physical outputs of the research, hands and prosthetic prototypes, and exhibition should engage these designers.
Engineering is itself also a creative discipline, and the methods of participatory design and exploratory prototyping employed in this research could inspire more inclusive and creative practices within engineering and interdisciplinary collaborations beyond.

Knowledge benefits
The business community as well as several academic and creative fields will benefit from the knowledge that this project creates. For these audiences, the impact of the project will reside not just in the advances in practice and expert understanding, but in a raised awareness of what digital fabrication can be used for now and what more it could be used for in the future.
This knowledge will be embodied by material prototypes of hands, making it more accessible across different fields and more compelling across the visual disciplines in particular.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title 2 Material Specification 
Description Printed sheet on which participants specified materials for a made to measure prosthetic hand. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Deployed in workshops in Dundee, London and Glasgow as part of participatory design process. 
 
Title Boxes 
Description 35 x 'shoeboxes' for hands, in cardboard with foil stamping. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Exhibited in Cubitts eyewear, Institute of Making UCL and Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum New York. 
 
Title Film. 
Description Film directed by Jared Schiller. 2 minute edit for Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum New York (November 2017); final edit for British Council Singapore (April 2018). 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Film shown in Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum New York. 
 
Title Furniture. 
Description Hands of X point of sale furniture, including pigeonholes, plan chest, chairs and Hands of X shop sign. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Exhibited in Cubitts eyewear, Barras Market Glasgow and Institute of Making UCL. 
 
Title Hands in two materials 
Description 12 x abstracted hands in various materials. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Used for detailed co-design with wearers. 
 
Title Invitations. 
Description Invitations for service prototype. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Sent to participants in service prototypingn at Cubitts eyewear London (June 2017) and Barras Market Glasgow (September 2017). 
 
Title Jigsaw hands 
Description 20 x jigsaw hands in woods, cellulose acetates, leathers, steels and wool felts. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Part of installation in Cubitts eyewear, London (June 2017) and Festival of Stuff, Institute of Making, UCL (July 2017). 
 
Title Material swatches. 
Description 126 x material swatches in woods, cellulose acetates, leathers, metals and woollen felts. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Exhibited in Cubitts eyewear, Institute of Making UCL and Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum New York. 
 
Title Prototype prosthetic hands 
Description 3 x prosthetic hand prototypes in woods, cellulose acetates, leathers and steel. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact Exhibited in Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York. 
 
Title Single material hands 
Description 12 x abstracted hands in woods, corks, rubber, concrete, brass, wool, beeswax, leather, fabric, composites, plastics, cellulose acetate 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Exhibited in Dundee Design Festival. 
 
Description We consider that the most significant achievements from this award have been to design and prototype not just a radical collection of made to measure prosthetic hands, offering material choice through a combination of digital manufacture and craft making, but also the user's experience of the service through which this choice would be offered. This, the service around the manufacture, is the more exploratory, radical and transferrable to other products and other industries. It is here that the social dimension of our 'socio-technical' research is deepest. And it is here that we have gone beyond the objectives in the original proposal: staging interventions not only in makerspace-like venues but also within a fashion-led eyewear retailer in London's Kings Cross.
Exploitation Route We are already working with Dr Jo Gooding, AHRC Creative Economy Engagement Fellow on "Design for Health Interactions", an 8 month project based at Kingston University as part of the London Doctoral Design Consortium. http://ldoc-cdt.ac.uk/ This is supported through the National Productivity Investment Fund. Dr Gooding's study is entitled 'Beyond the Bespoke -Can the Hands of X model of co-design for prosthetic limbs be applied within the context of the NHS?' "This fellowship will research and evaluate the Hands of X project and propose options for its wider application in the NHS. It will undertake a feasibility study to develop this innovative design collaboration that connects the creative economy and health care... This collaborative research project has major potential to facilitate change in the health sector and transform the patient experience by building on this pilot project and exploring the practicalities of extending the impact of this within the regulatory frameworks of the current NHS system. This research fellowship will create networks and facilitate links between the Hands of X design team and specialist rehabilitation centres within the NHS. It will contribute to the NHS consultation informing the NHS Commissioning Prosthetics Service Review. It will provide the groundwork for subsequent larger collaborative bids."
At the same time, we are pursuing the implementation of Hands of X with industry contacts. Our findings will also be disseminated to diverse academics through in chapters in interdisciplinary books (around critical disability studies for Routledge, in press and around fashion and the body for Bloomsbury, in preparation) and journal papers (one published, more planned). We are also self-publishing a richly-illustrated book (in preparation), to complement academic outputs, to be posted to all our key participants and to future partners. We hope that these activities will lead to our findings being taken forward in a number of fields.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail

URL http://www.handsofx.co.uk
 
Description Five months from the end of the project (15 March 2018), impact is largely societal. A number of activities within and since the project involved public engagement and therefore non-academic audiences, including: 1 Holding workshops for wearers, designers, makers and materials specialists at Dundee Design Festival, Institute of Making London and MAKLab Glasgow (May-June 2016) 2 Staging a public exhibition and activity sessions for school children at Dundee Design Festival 2016, with features in the local and national newspapers. 3 Giving public talks at Designable 2016 London, Crafts Council Make:Shift 2016 Manchester and Redesigning the Human, Leeds (November-December 2016) 4 Co-designing with wearers (only one of whom happens to be an academic) from material combinations to design details (February 2016-October 2017) 5 Prototyping the service and public launch within Cubitts eyewear, Kings Cross, London. Visitors included Steeper's Technical Director and Chanel's head of eyewear (June 2017) 6 Staging public outreach at Festival of Stuff, the Institute of Making's public open week, UCL London, 1100 visitors recorded (July 2017) 7 Prototyping the service at the Barras Market, Glasgow which included renting a vacant shop (September 2017) 8 Commissioning a documentary film for public release, made by Jared Schiller (who has also made films about and with artists such as Antony Gormley) (June-September 2017) 9 Launching a website at www.handsofx.co.uk through which we have recruited participants and started international correspondences (June 2016-) 10 Publishing a richly-illustrated book (in progress), to complement academic outputs, to be posted to all our key participants and to future partners (September 2017-) 11 Being featured on V&A Dundee 'Design Champions' on www.vandadundee.org and the VADvent calendar (October-December 2017) 12 Exhibiting at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum of Design, New York (December 2017-September 2018) with a touring exhibition in the US in planning. In recognition of this activity with non-academic audiences and participants Hands of X was awarded the 2018 Stephen Fry Award for Excellence in Public Engagement with Research. https://www.dundee.ac.uk/news/2018/2018-stephen-fry-awards.php (This is an award within the University of Dundee and so is not entered into 'Awards & Recognition' on Research Fish.) We will use the prize money from this award to fund a second set of exhibits--the originals being in New York and the U.S. for the foreseeable future. We are in discussions with the V&A Design Museum Dundee and the National Museum Scotland about specific exhibits, and the National Museum Scotland wish to acquire a Hand of X for their permanent historical collection, where it will join a rich collection of prosthetic hands from academic research, clinical development, artistic practice and commercial manufacture. Principles of flexible personal manufacture and material choice inspired by Hands of X are already being put into practice within a commercial business, Laughing Stock, making eyewear in Glasgow. Further research is already facilitating links between the Hands of X design team and specialist rehabilitation centres within the NHS and will contribute to the NHS consultation informing the NHS Commissioning Prosthetics Service Review.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Creative Economy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Starworks - Devices for Dignity
Amount £49,635 (GBP)
Organisation NHS Sheffield CCG 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2018 
End 12/2018
 
Description BBC Radio 4 Today Prorgamme: Defending Art History A-Level 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interviewed on the BBC Radio 4's Today Programme about the proposed closure of Art History A-Level. They were interested in the views of Engineers like me. I argued for a broad curriculum including art history as vital for modern engineering education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07zv3gf
 
Description British Council 'Knowledge is GREAT' lecture at the National Design Centre, Singapore 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The lecture was well attended and was followed by shorter presentations by global and local companies and a panel discussion with audience questions. Connections were made between academic research, corporate social responsibility activities and commercial practice, nationally and internationally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Contributor to BBC Radio 4 news and cultural programmes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 1. BBC Radio 4 - The Science of Dr Seuss - Contributor - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b085z058?ns_mchannel=social& - 2nd Jan 2017

2. BBC Radio 4 - Print Me A New Body - Contributor - - 5th June 2017 - BBC Radio 4 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rq6dl

3. BBC Radio 4 - The Science of Cake - Contributor - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1pSjKGxlHPVkFYvzp34CVjM/how-science-can-help-you-bake-the-perfect-sponge-cake - 25th Sept 2017

4. BBC Radio 4 Today Programme - The Science of Crisp Packets - Contributor -- http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05qbsq8 - 7th Dec 2017

5. BBC Radio 4 PM Programme - The Problem with Plastics - Contributor - 17th, 18th and 19th 2018 Jan http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qskw
6. BBC World Service Newshour Programme 17th Jan 2018: - The Problem with Plastics - Contributor : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w172vr1kyqhhhfs

7. BBC Radio 4 - A Good Read - 24th Feb 2018 - Contributor: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09snj94
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description GCSE Science Live Events 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talks to school children in Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester organised by GCSE Science Live
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://gcsesciencelive.net/
 
Description GCSE Science Live Events 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talks at Oxford & London organised by GCSE Science Live
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://gcsesciencelive.net/
 
Description Institute of Making - Research Workshops and Events 2016/2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 18th April, 2016. Akins Away Day. (Corporate).
28th April, 2016. Materials Library Evening. (Library) Public event.
4th May, 2016. Concrete with Leigh Cameron. (Masterclass) Public event.
9th May, 2016. Copper Spoon Making. (Masterclass) Public event.
24th May, 2016. Hands of X, Dundee. (Research event)
6th June, 2016. Hands of X, London. (Research event)
15th June, 2016. Hands of X, Glasgow. (Research event)
21st June, 2016. Wooden Whistle Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
21st June, 2016. Morning - Felt Ball and 3D Hand Embroidery Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
21st June, 2016. Morning - Chair Caning Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
21st June, 2016. Dustpan and Brush Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
21st June, 2016. Afternoon - Felt Ball and 3D Hand Embroidery Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
21st June, 2016. Afternoon - Chair Caning Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
22nd June, 2016. Laminate Wood Forming Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
22nd June, 2016. Morning - Experimental Fabric Colouring Masterclass. (Festival of Stu ) 22nd June, 2016. Afternoon - Experimental Fabric Colouring Masterclass (Festival of Stu ) 22nd June, 2016. Performing Matter - Greatest Hit and New Findings. (Festival of Stu )
23rd June, 2016. Morning - Experimental Pewter Casting Masterclass. (Festival of Stu ) 23rd June, 2016. Morning - Fish Printing Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
23rd June, 2016. Morning - Plant Moisture Sensor Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
23rd June, 2016. Afternoon - Experimental Pewter Casting Masterclass. (Festival of Stu ) 23rd June, 2016. Afternoon - Fish Printing Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
23rd June, 2016. Afternoon - Plant Moisture Sensor Masterclass. (Festival of Stu ) 24th June, 2016. Morning - Concrete Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
24th June, 2016. Sensors Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
24th June, 2016. Afternoon - Concrete Masterclass. (Festival of Stu )
25th June, 2016. Festival of Stu . (Open day)
13th July, 2016. Failure Non-Event. (Research Hub event)
26th July, 2016. Object-based and Creative Methods for Communicating Emotions. (Research event).
18th July - 18th August, 2016. Beer Brewing. (Masterclass) Member event.
26th July, 2016. Touching Emotions: Object-based and Creative Methods for Communicating Emotions. (Research event) Public event.
16th August, 2016. Day in the woods with Geo rey Fisher. (Masterclass) Member event. 17th September, 2016. Cutlery Design Challenge. (Exhibition) Public and members challenge.
20th September - 22nd January, 2017. Victorians Decoded: Art and Telegraphy. (Research Hub event)
4th - 7th October, 2016. UCL Lunchtime Looks. (Open to all UCL).
4th - 7th October, 2016. Jeremy Atkinson - Clog Maker. (Maker in Residence).
28th October, 2016. Sand Casting with Silver. (Masterclass) Member event.
28th October, 2016. Sand Casting with Silver. (Masterclass) Public event.
5th November, 2016. Geology. (Open day) Public event.
23rd November, 2016. Museums on Prescription. (Outreach).
28th November, 2016. Co-Lab. (Research hub event).
5th December, 2016. Introduction to pattern cutting with Juliana Sissons. (Masterclass) Member event.
5th December, 2016. Interpreting of a shop-bought pattern with Juliana Sissons. (Masterclass) Member event.
19th December, 2016. Make Merry. (Workshop) Member event.
20th - 21st January, 2017. Coding & Representation Conference. (Research Hub event)
13th February, 2017. Stool in a day. (Masterclass) Member event.
20th February, 2017. Introduction to the art of Kintsugi. (Masterclass) Member event.
24th February, 2017. Materials Library talk with Mark Miodownik. (Library) Public event. 25th February, 2017. Design inclusive workshop. (Outreach)
27th February, 2017. Morning - Glass working. (Masterclass) Member event.
27th February, 2017. Afternoon - Glass working. (Masterclass) Member event.
11th March, 2017. 4th Birthday. (Open day) Public event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Institute of Making Public Events 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We organised several different kinds of public event, ranging from talks and masterclasses run by expert makers for small groups to large scale public extravaganzas. Masterclasses and talks for the public included flintknapping with archaeologist Karl Lee, a 'smell walk' with Dr Victoria Henshaw and 'bodging' and repairing with designer Jasleen Kaur, for example. During our large open days we threw wide the doors of the Makespace and the Materials Library to the public and organised various making activities designed to appeal to seasoned makers, first-time tinkerers and families alike, and curated a themed selection of materials for visitors to explore in the Materials Library. Themes have included 'Plastic Fantastic', 'Luminescence' and 'Foam', for example. We have had many return visitors at these public open days, and the public engagement programme has inspired people to explore new areas of interest, acquire new skills, and engage with experts in diverse fields of materials research and making. For a full list of events up until March 2014, see our annual report: http://www.instituteofmaking.org.uk/blog/2014/05/first-year-report and for events since then, see the URL below.

Between 2013 and 2014 we hosted eight public open days at UCL with a total attendance of approximately 3500 including a high representation from families and children. Through these events the public get both a taste of the Makespace and Materials Library, and a chance to meet and interact with our wonderful and knowledgeable community of members. This public programme is extremely popular, with many events being booked up in less than five minutes of being released and with extensive waiting lists forming. For example, 1156 people applied to attend Roja Dove: An Olfactory Experience, for which there were only 40 spaces available. We instigated the first Festival of Materials and Making at King's College, and have instituted an annual Festival of Stuff at UCL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014
URL http://www.instituteofmaking.org.uk/events
 
Description Physics in Action Schools Talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Schools talks
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.thetrainingpartnership.org.uk/study-days/subjects/physics/
 
Description Public Talks 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 1. Cheltenham Science Festival, June 25,000 visitor - https://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science/ - June 2017

2. New Scientist Live - Sept 30,000 visitors - https://live.newscientist.com/ - 22nd Sept 2017

3. IET Engineering Festival -http://www.engfest.org/ - 17th Oct 2017

4. Three Physics in Action talks to 800 A-level student held in London - - Nov, Dec 2017 & March 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Stephen Fry Award for Public Engagement 2018: Research Project of the Year, University of Dundee for 'Hands of X' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public lecture at University of Dundee 'Discovery Days' in recognition of Stephen Fry Award for Public Engagement 2018: Research Project of the Year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018