South Bend Startup Testing Inexpensive, Accessible Prosthetic Hand

South Bend- Officials from a tech startup here have developed a prosthetic hand that they say would cost less than those currently on the market and require less training for amputees.

ProstheTech hopes to finish testing its myoelectric prosthetic hand – which works by using existing electrical signals in an amputee’s muscles – by the end of this year.

The firm recently received $20,000 from Elevate Ventures, an entrepreneurial development advocacy organization, to finalize its prototype.

In order to reduce the amount of time an amputee has to practice with a prosthetist, Jose Montalvo, the Chief Executive Officer, said ProstheTech’s hand will use artificial intelligence technology that will allow the machine to quickly learn how the patient using the hand thinks and how their muscles typically react to stimuli.

As for the materials that’ll be sued, Montalvo said they’re consistent with other prosthetics.

“We’re using the most advanced materials we can find, carbon fiber, 3D printing for the tips of the fingers, a special metal alloy for the junctions of the fingers and the cost is still not that high,” Montalvo said. “I think companies charge a lot for their prosthetics because that’s the norm. It’s a product that you need to live, so they can just upcharge it as much as they want, but the materials cost is not that high.”

In addition to the hand’s customizable feautres, Montalvo said they are also developing software that will allow prosthetists and amputees to plug the hand into a computer for a tutorial on how to use it, which will further simplify the training process.

“We would train the prosthetists on how to repair the hand, but not on how to use it because it will be very simple to use,” Montalvo said.

The company is headed by a four-man team, three of whom grew up outside of the U.S. born and raised in El Salvador, Montalvo said he thinks the three’s international status have contributed to their interest in prosthetics. While attending Notre Dame for his electrical engineering degree, Montalvo learned that the current prosthetics on the market are too expensive for the majority of consumers around the world, and he hopes ProstheTech can fill the need for less-expensive alternatives.

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Photo Credit: South Bend Tribune/Michael Caterina