Local academics PRINT a new hand to enable schoolboy to hold a pen for the first time

Two local academics have PRINTED an eight-year-old boy a new hand using state-of-the-art 3D technology.

William Joyner, who was born with fingers missing on his dominant left hand, can now hold a pen for the first time by using signals from muscles in his arm to control his new hand.

The University of Bedfordshire academics will be talking about their breakthrough at the MKEX Technology Exhibition in Milton Keynes next week.

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David Jazani Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Technology, and Mark Hooper a technician and demonstrator who is studying part-time for a PhD in Computer Science, were contacted by Will’s mother, Jo, to see if they could help the Towcester schoolboy.

Mark Hooper explained: “Jo had found a design of a hand online made by scientist in Africa. She wanted to see if we could adapt it.

“It was brilliant but we wanted to see if we could make it less clunky and more usable for a young boy. Also we wanted incorporate the use of William’s thumb to make the hand as dexterous as possible.”

There are still some adaptations to the hand to be made. It needs to be able to withstand the everyday activities of an eight year boy; and with that in mind there are plans to insert lightweight aluminium rods and to use titanium hinges.

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David Jazani said: “This will be an on-going project for the next 12 years while William grows. But we hope with the latest modifications William will be walking out of the University with a fully working hand soon.

“The problem with this prototype is that if we let William take it home, as it is all plastic it will not last 24 hours. So we are developing a more robust design that can still be useful and be adapted for the future needs, at this stage using aircraft quality aluminium parts.

“This will give the glove longevity and some resistance to stresses, as well as the hinge being replaceable into the plastic platform.”

Will’s mum Jo is over the moon. She said: “It means Will be able to do the same things as other children. He’ll be able to do complex things like tie his laces but also simple activities like holding a drink in one hand and an ice lolly in the other.”

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“I can’t thank these guys enough. What they’re doing for William is life changing.”

The new hand doesn’t just mean Will gains the use of his left hand. Now that he’s using the muscles down his left hand side they will get more developed and stronger whereas at the moment they’re rarely used. And for a budding footballer like Will that’s very important.

Even better for William, who is a Reading FC supporter, the hand is going to be decked out in blue and white tying in with the team’s colours.

“But,” said David Jazani “we’re also going make a flesh coloured one just in case he changes his mind when he’s older!”

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Peter Barnett, of MKEX, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that the University of Bedfordshire’s Department of Computer Science and Technology team will be showcasing their work at the innovation zone at MKEX on June 22.

“MKEX will be a celebration of the best that technology can offer in the Milton Keynes region.”

The innovation zone will also see the launch of the Movey Academy.

For more details of all the events at MKEX Technology Exhibition on Wednesday, June 22, visit www.mkex.co.uk