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Shortly after graduating from Uttar Pradesh Technical University, biomedical engineer Abhit Kumar discovered that the majority of parts used to produce hand prostheses in his homeland of India were imported from overseas countries in Europe and North America. The result of sourcing parts from distant locations was devices that cost over six times the monthly income of the average rural family; despite the fact that almost 70% of India’s population lives in rural areas, where the highest rate of amputation occurs.
In response, Abhit co-founded Social Hardware, a Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion recognised startup under the Startup India Action Plan, with the aim of replacing costly overseas imports with locally manufactured prostheses, enabling non-profit organisations to help more people, faster, and at much lower cost than existing international supply chains.
“Innovations born through the free flow of information have the potential to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.”“
To raise the funds necessary to provide these prosthetics to amputees for free, Social Hardware is offering backers the chance to pre-order a prosthetic development kit, which includes everything you need to understand, build, and modify your own bionic hand.
We’ve set up a disability rehabilitation program with The Association of People with Disabilities (APD) in Bengaluru, India, to provide amputees from rural communities with access to the physiotherapy and training required to effectively utilise a prosthetic hand in daily life. Participants that successfully complete the program will be fitted with our prosthetic hand for free.
APD has also provided us with access to their onsite fabrication and testing lab, which includes access to the skilled technicians and rehabilitation professionals required to conduct extensive user testing research. Further details on our rehabilitation program and user research will be available on APD’s website shortly.
To date, we have produced a silicone rubber “looks-like” prototype and several iterations of the 3D printed “works-like” prototype. These prototypes have been tested with amputees at The Association of People with Disabilities and examined by experts at partner rehabilitation centres across the country. This iterative approach to development has provided us with continuous ongoing feedback throughout the research and development process, enabling us to constantly enhance our designs using feedback directly from India’s amputee community.
Our next stage is to carry out a pilot study with 10 patients at three disability rehabilitation centres, while transitioning from a works-like prototype to an end product ready for mass production. We are also be working closely with Autodesk to ensure that our industrial designs can be urethane cast as well as liquid silicone injection moulded. This opens up the possibility of both small batch production (under one hundred units via low-cost urethane casting) and high volume mass production with liquid silicone injection moulding.
“Social Hardware is an Anglo-Indian team focused on developing prosthetic hand for underprivileged communities that will allow them to perform activities in real time which they currently aren’t able to do, the team has a better model to expand and serve a broader social community and are on course to develop a superior product to the currently existing one present in the developing community market.”
— Lisa Rose, iCreate International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology
“Collaboration is a key aspect for innovation and when I met the team of Social Hardware in 2015 during the Enable Makeathon, a makeathon oriented towards developing products in the disability space, I felt that collaboration was being rightly promoted by them. Prosthetic hands available in the international market are hardly affordable by the third world market, which has a large beneficiary base, and since very few companies have a wholesome focus or a model to tackle locomotive disability such as upper limb amputation, I decided to mentor and support Social Hardware’s endeavour to keep on iterating the design and testing their prototypes with and without patients.”
— Mohan Sundaram, Trustee and Board Member, Association of People with Disabilities
“It’s been inspiring to work with Social Hardware. Their project is making significant progress towards the democratisation of prosthetics and ambitious product development like this requires a lot of intense brainstorming, ideation, iteration, validation, prototyping, and testing for engineering design.”
— Varun Heta, Technology Evangelist, Autodesk Inc.