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RP Technologies lends a hand in transforming amputees' lives

07 January 2016

When Steeper required intricate prototype and production components for a miniaturised version of their bebionic prosthetic hand they turned to RP Technologies for its wide ranging expertise, flexible engineering solutions and no limits approach.

Prosthetic experts Steeper wanted to produce a myoelectric prosthetic hand that could transform the lives of amputees worldwide and help them to regain independence and control in their everyday lives. They developed the bebionic which is modelled on an accurate skeletal structure and is constructed from an array of components designed to provide the most true to life movements.

The hand marks a turning point in the world of prosthetics as it perfectly mimics the functions of a real hand via 14 different precision grips which enable amputees to engage in a range of activities that would have previously been complex and unmanageable.

Following the success of the bebionic Steeper began to develop a miniaturised version, the bebionic small, and approached RP Technologies with the challenge. Steeper needed a supplier that could turn around complex parts without compromising the quality. They wanted to find a company who could manufacture aluminium tooling and injection moulded components under one roof.

RP Technologies were the perfect fit with a dedicated engineer looking after each project from CAD model to finished components and a tool room and mould shop within their facilities on the Pensnett Trading Estate in the West Midlands.

The brief to RP Technologies for this latest project was to develop and manufacture prototype and production components for the bebionic small. Ultimately, the challenge was to help solve the technical issues that occurred with the miniaturising of the components to ensure the design was suitable for plastic injection moulding.

With a strong reputation for their ‘without limits’ approach when manufacturing aluminium tooling and injection moulded components, RP Technologies were privileged to become a key supplier to Steeper for the project.

With the miniaturisation of the original components Steeper had to review the wall thickness on all 9 parts to ensure the components were suitable for injection moulding. One of the main concerns with thin wall sections was flow length over the larger components.

The component mostly affected was the palm; Steeper specified that TPE was over-moulded to an ABS substrate. The problem arose because the TPE was so thin it didn’t carry adequate heat to form the chemical bond between the ABS and the over-moulding. After considerate development the engineers at RP offered a solution which met Steeper’s specifications without compromising the component design.

“RP Technologies have been a vital part of the development process for the bebionic small," says Ted Varley, Technical Director at Steeper. "Their fantastic communication, flexibility and technical solutions have meant that we’ve been able to produce an array of small intricate components that other moulders would have difficulty producing.” 

RP manufactured and supplied Steeper with a number of components for their testing and development process. The required modifications were made to the aluminium tooling and new samples were manufactured for approval. Once Steeper had approved the prototype components the design was frozen and they placed an order for over 500 production parts for all nine components.

“It’s been great to work with Ted and the team at Steeper and provide components for such a life changing product," concludes Paul Roe, General Manager at RP Technologies. "We’ve really enjoyed the technical challenges and our without limits philosophy has meant we’ve been able to supply complex components that fit the customer specification”.

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