classic | mobile



Innovation goes hand in hand
3rd Quarter 2017, This Week's Editor's Pick, Robotics & Mechatronics

Tie shoelaces, fold bed linen, tear open a bag of crisps – the list of things that are difficult to do with one hand goes on and on. People who have lost a hand are confronted with such obstacles every day.

To make daily life easier, the British company Steeper has developed the bebionic myoelectric hand prosthesis. This is controlled by myoelectric signals generated from muscle contractions in the arm, and can perform multiple different grip patterns selected by the user. Faulhaber high power density motors ensure that the prosthesis can grip smoothly, quickly and firmly and retain the grip force without relaxing.

The bebionic myoelectric prosthesis weighs between 400 and 600 grams and is about as heavy as a natural hand. It is controlled using the tiny electric signals in the body. These are generated when a muscle contracts and can be detected with electrodes on the skin – the same way as an ECG in heart diagnostics. Two electrodes are integrated into the prosthesis socket, which detect the myoelectric signal and forward it to the control electronics. These signals are amplified and used to activate the five small electric motors, one for each digit, which move the fingers and thumb, causing the hand to open and close. The strength of the muscle contraction controls the speed and the gripping force: a weak signal generates a slow movement, a strong signal generates a quick movement.

Additional motors for more control

To control the individual fingers, each finger on the bebionic hand is equipped with its own electric motor. The four motors for the fingers are located in the palm of the hand, the fifth located in the thumb itself. Encoders are integrated into the motors, which precisely detect the position of the finger at any time. Thanks to individual control, the fingers can be arranged into a total of 14 different grip patterns.

To change between the individual grip patterns, the bebionic wearer also uses the arm muscles. Different grip patterns are available, depending on which thumb position is chosen. The hand owner can therefore decide which of the 14 possible grip types to use, and in which order, and using software, can program the prosthesis individually.

Increased self-esteem

The bionic hand makes many everyday activities easier. “It leads to a clearly improved quality of life,” explains Ted Varley, technical director at Steeper.

“Furthermore, the artificial hand also has a big psychological effect. Many users report that their feeling of self-esteem is increased with the use of a bebionic hand.” In this context, the attractive design of the prosthesis also plays an important role, and the exterior design has been adapted as closely as possible to the natural appearance.

Top marks for performance

The new DC-micromotor of series 1024 SR is genuinely best-in-class and the most powerful for its size on the market. With a diameter of 10 mm and a length of 24 mm, it delivers a stall torque rating of 4,6 mNm. Furthermore, it offers consistently high torque across the entire speed range resulting from the flat speed/torque curve. The strong performance is made possible by the development of a new coil design which contains 60% more copper than its predecessor and has been combined with a powerful rare earth magnet. In order to make the movement as quiet as possible, the artificial hand uses planetary gearheads based on series 10/1 in customised versions which do not contain any plastic.

“A significant challenge was the development of the linear drive system, which had to be integrated into the thumb,” says Tiziano Bordonzotti, sales manager at Faulhaber Minimotor. Thanks to high precision four-point contact bearings from Faulhaber’s subsidiary, Micro Precision Systems, it was possible to make the drive system significantly shorter compared to the competition. The unique characteristics of the four-point contact bearing allow the hand to withstand the required high axial load, even with a smaller dimension than alternative bearing systems.

Ted Varley is excited. “The small bebionic hand is the most lifelike myoelectric hand prosthesis on the market and it would not have been possible to realise this project without the close co-operation of the Faulhaber project team,” he concludes.

For more information contact David Horne, Horne Technologies, +27 (0)76 563 2084,,

Supplied By: Horne Technologies
Tel: +27 76 563 2084
Fax: 086 653 5225
Share via email     Print this page  

Further reading:

  • Music festival is a flying success
    1st Quarter 2019, SEW-Eurodrive, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    One of the most spectacular stunts ever achieved at a live music event in South Africa involved flying a replica helicopter across the stage at the Afrikaans is Groot festival at the Sun Arena in Menlyn, Pretoria, which was achieved using state-of-the-art automation and mechatronics technology from SEW-Eurodrive.
  • A bionic flying fox
    1st Quarter 2019, Festo, This Week's Editor's Pick, Robotics & Mechatronics
    Festo has for years been developing research platforms where the basic technical principles are derived from nature.
  • New Scara robot family
    1st Quarter 2019, Omron Electronics, Robotics & Mechatronics
    Omron is introducing a new line of Scara robots, boasting a sleek design and enhanced performance.
  • Football pitch in three pieces
    1st Quarter 2019, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    Sheffield-based engineering firm, SCX, helped to deliver the retractable pitch.
  • Support for new space telescope
    1st Quarter 2019, Tectra Automation, This Week's Editor's Pick, Pneumatic systems & components
    Tectra Automation designed and supplied a purpose-built assembly tower to integrate and align the telescope lenses for a new space telescope, using the Bosch Rexroth range of heavy duty modular aluminium profiles and accessories.
  • The first Mars helicopter will fly with maxon motors
    1st Quarter 2019, DNH Tradeserve, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    The Mars helicopter technology will lay the way for many future scientific and exploratory missions to Mars.
  • Retrofit of sheet metal warehouse
    1st Quarter 2019, Beckhoff Automation, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    The modernisation project was handled by Peter Huber, a full service provider of control solutions for sheet metalworking, and a Beckhoff solution provider since 2010.
  • Taking hydraulics to a new level
    4th Quarter 2018, Parker Hannifin - Sales Company South Africa, This Week's Editor's Pick, Other technologies
    The recent introduction of versatile digital ecosystems connecting electronic control hardware and software to the cloud will be a game changer for mobile hydraulic machinery and equipment manufacturers.
  • Fashion and data combine to create iconic African designs
    4th Quarter 2018, Siemens Digital Factory & Process Ind. & Drives, This Week's Editor's Pick, Other technologies
    Technology leader Siemens used data from the cities of Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg and wove it into unique fabrics which tell a story about each city.
  • A revolutionary new heavy duty engine platform
    4th Quarter 2018, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    Cummins ISG is a revolutionary global heavy duty engine platform developed using a combination of patented technologies and advanced production techniques.
  • Blockbuster effects, automated for any theatrical production
    4th Quarter 2018, Beckhoff Automation, This Week's Editor's Pick, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
    Controlling all the complex moving parts in a large-scale theatrical production requires a robust control system in the background, and Hudson uses Beckhoff’s PC-based control technology.
  • How to prove payback on an ­Industry 4.0 project
    4th Quarter 2018, Festo, This Week's Editor's Pick, Other technologies
    Festo not only implements IIoT functions and services into its product portfolio, but also adds training and consulting, for students as well as professionals, using the latest ideas in its Technology Factory at Scharnhausen, Germany.

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronic Buyers Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    classic | mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.