Innovation through Inspiration image

We love solving problems, it’s what fires us up and inspires fresh and original thinking.

Inspiration is an essential part of the creative process. The most relevant and disruptive products and solutions are the ones that are inspired by real life situations, events or problems.

Joel Gibbard, a 25-year-old robotics engineer who graduated from Plymouth University in 2011, has recently won the prestigious James Dyson award for his game-changing 3D-printed prosthetic hand. A prosthetic hand that challenges much more expensive and advanced products, yet comes in at less than £1000, and can be 3D-printed in just 40 hours.

More advanced, traditionally manufactured prosthetic limbs cost anywhere from £30,000 – £60,000 and take weeks, if not months of fitting appointments and manufacturing before they can be used. Compare that to Joel’s design and it becomes obvious just how revolutionary his technology is, and the opportunity it could provide to change thousands of lives worldwide.

Joel’s inspiration was his encounter with a six-year-old girl who sadly lost all of her limbs to meningitis but wasn’t comfortable using traditional prosthetics. The most capable, advanced ones were prohibitively expensive, and the more affordable ones were heavy, ugly, clumsy and difficult to use.

“The problem of current robotic prosthetics is their financial barriers. The only alternative to a robotic prosthetic is a cosmetic hand that is functionless and heavy, or an alienating hook,” said Joel. “I can 3D print a robotic prosthetic hand inspired by comic books and superheroes that hand amputees enjoy showing off for a fraction of the price.”

Joel’s product development began at university, with his initial prototype securing him a first-class robotics degree. After graduating university, Joel continued his product development, including launching a crowd-funding campaign two years ago, which generated £44,000 and allowed him to turn his dream into a reality, launching his own business – Open Bionics.

Joel has spent four years to date developing his groundbreaking prosthetic arm. By thinking outside of the box and using brand new, cutting-edge technologies he has managed to produce a product that is able to perform the same tasks as much more advanced prosthetics, and at a fraction of the cost. Individual finger movements are achieved using sensors, stuck directly on to the user’s skin. It was this combination of innovation, enterprise and affordability that helped Joel win the Dyson Award.


“I’m a great believer in finding more efficient ways of doing things. By embracing rapid prototyping techniques, Joel has initiated a step-change in the development of robotic limbs. Open Bionics opens doors to a community that might not have previously had access to advanced prosthetics,” said James Dyson.

Winning the James Dyson Award means Joel will receive the UK award prize fund of £2,000, which he currently plans to put towards a new 3D printer. As the UK National Dyson Award winner he will also be representing the UK at the International Dyson Awards later on this year, with a chance to win the main prize of £30,000, along with all of the accolades and door-opening opportunities that come with it.

Whether designing and 3D-printing prosthetic limbs, or creating fully featured digital business solutions, inspiration is always a key ingredient to success. Without inspiration, innovation becomes stifled, and innovation is what really helps set you apart from your peers and competitors.

At RLA, innovation is in our blood, with a number of ongoing projects making use of cutting edge technologies such as iBeacons, NFC chips and VR headsets such as Occulus Rift. Inspiration is the essential first part of the story that breeds the necessary creative thinking and sparks those original ideas.


Innovation through Inspiration - RLA™