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A New Low-Cost Bionic Hand

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Robotics, Automation, and Product Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

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Paper Authors


TJ Brown Middle Tennessee State University

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TJ Brown earned his Bachelor of Science in 2015 at Middle Tennessee State University where he studied Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology and focused on researching new designs for bionic technology.

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Chong Chen P.E. Middle Tennessee State University

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Dr. Chong Chen is a professor in the Department of Engineering Technology at Middle Tennessee State University. He received B.S. degree from Hebei Institute of Technology in China, M.S. degree from Tianjin University in China, and Ph.D. degree from University of Kentucky, all in Electrical Engineering. Dr. Chen teaches electric circuits, electronics, controls, and industrial electricity. His research areas include controls, power electronics, electric machines, and electromagnetic fields. Dr. Chen is a Professional Engineer registered in the State of Tennessee.

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Technology has come a long way in the past three decades. Electronic devices have become cheaper and cheaper every year because of new advancements that help create smaller, faster, and more reliable devices. The more recent advancements in the field of prosthetic limbs have enabled patients to control bionic limbs using electrical signals that are generated from muscle contractions through a process called electromyography (EMG). However, these bionic limbs have not been around long and the cost associated with them are still too high to make them accessible to those who really need them.

This student research project utilizes recently acquired skills in Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology to lower the price of a bionic hand. The mechanical parts that make up the hand are designed using 3D CAD software and then created on a 3D-printer. Using 3D-printing, the hand can easily be scaled to any size much cheaper than using traditional methods. The project also lowers cost by designing and creating its own EMG circuit. This is the most important part of the whole project because it gives the user control over the hand. Without it, the hand is just for looks. The EMG circuit measures voltage across an arm muscle, when the muscle contracts, the circuit sends signals into a microcontroller that operates the 3D-printed hand with the help of a few servos.

There are some companies currently working on cheaper models of bionic hands as well, but most of these have limited functionality and the cost to buy them is still too high. The total cost of this bionic hand project up to this point is approximately $500, compared to other models on the market today that sell for as much as a new car. Granted, this hand is not ready to replace a prosthetic hand just yet, but the built prototype was a complete success. The next step of the project is to focus on design improvements and to add another EMC circuit in order to read more muscles. This will allow the bionic hand to bring some real competition to the market and drive the price down.

Brown, T., & Chen, C. (2016, June), A New Low-Cost Bionic Hand Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26378

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