11 June 2024

Man, 52, who lost four of his fingers is fitted with ‘Hero Gauntlet’ by UK firm

11 June 2024

A former lorry driver who lost all four fingers of his right hand in a work accident has been fitted with a novel 3D printed device called a Hero Gauntlet by a UK company, which allows him to grip and hold things.

Bristol-based Open Bionics said that 52-year-old Michael Altheim is the first person in the world to get the device outside of prototypes.

The firm said that Mr Altheim, of Frankfurt in Germany, is also the first patient in the world to get the technology via a clinic.

Mr Altheim’s accident happened a decade ago when the glove he was wearing got caught in the treadmill of an industrial machine while sanding a sports field, Open Bionics said.

He had four of his fingers amputated.

The new device, called a Hero Gauntlet, has 3D-printed fingers which strap onto his palm.

They are controlled by Mr Altheim’s wrist motion, enabling him to experience gripping and holding objects for the first time since his accident.

He said that he was able to hold a shopping basket with the Hero Gauntlet and use his other hand to load groceries.

Mr Altheim also plans to use the device when out fishing, going on bike rides and doing DIY tasks.

“I previously had partial finger solutions, but the weight was really heavy, operation minimal and it wasn’t waterproof,” he said.

“I could maybe fold a towel and that was it.

“I’ve never been able to properly hold a screwdriver or hammer, or use it for fishing.”

He said that the “new hand works perfectly without any delay”.

“When I slipped the Hero Gauntlet on and moved my joint and then my fingers went –  I thought in amazement ‘Oh yes, look there!’,” he said.

“And then we went on and on, trying out and adjusting everything, then they got a ball, then a screwdriver… I could finally control the hardness of the grip.”

The waterproof and lightweight Hero Gauntlet was custom-built for Mr Altheim’s amputation using 3D scanning and 3D printing by Open Bionics.

Samantha Payne, chief operating officer and co-founder of Open Bionics, said: “We’ve had so many requests from the limb difference community to design and develop a partial hand solution that offers function and comfort for all-day wear.

“It’s pure joy to see this piece of engineering have an instant positive impact on activities Michael loves doing.”

Open Bionics is currently working with insurance groups across Germany to offer this technology to partial hand amputees.

The firm said Mr Altheim was the first patient to undergo a successful trial of the new technology and that there are “many more German citizens currently undergoing trials for this technology”.

Open Bionics, which was founded in 2014, also produces a 3D-printed prosthetic called the Hero Arm.

The firm has fitted people with limb differences with Hero Arms in the UK, America, Ukraine, Germany, and Australia.

For details, see the Open Bionics website here.

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