Gerwin Smit – Developing the lightest ever prosthetic hand

written by Olga Mecking, 5 September 2013, filed as article

Gerwin Smit was born in Drachten, The Netherlands, and studied Biomechanical Engineering at Twente University. He was very disappointed when he learned that many people who have lost a hand or arm do not wear prostheses. Most of them claim they’re uncomfortable or too heavy. This motivated Gerwin to continue his research at Delft University of Technology. There, he had some major discoveries, allowing him to invent the lightest hand prosthesis ever. He is now a Postdoc in Delft.

Current prostheses are far from perfect. They are too heavy, too hot, and do not provide sufficient sensory input. But Gerwin Smit might have changed that. His prosthesis is now known as “The Delft Cylinder Hand”.

However, it is not all about precision and light weight: looks really matter too. Gerwin Smit says that the prosthesis also needs to be nice to look at. “It’s all about the three C’s: cosmetics, comfort and control”. It seems that the “Delft Cylinder Hand” meets these requirements.

In 2010, Gerwin co-founded Delft Prosthetics BV, a spin-off company that makes the prototypes developed at  TU Delft actually available to patients. He doesn’t find it easy;“making prosthetic technology available to the market is perhaps an even bigger challenge than developing it”.

He also founded the Handenstichting, the “Hand Foundation”, that aims to help amputees by raising funds for research in the field of prosthesis, focusing specifically on upper limbs prostheses.

Gerwin says that while his prosthesis has been successfully tested in the laboratory, “the next step of the project is to further test the hand prototype. This requires extensive clinical testing. For the first time people will be able to wear the new hand prosthesis at home.” Gerwin is looking forward to these tests. And so am I.

 

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