Touch Bionics Brings Prosthetic Technology to Dublin
Prosthetics manufacturer Touch Bionics once had their i-LIMB bionic hand featured in a Britney Spears and will.i.am music video, for the song “Scream & Shout.” And in an episode of CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0,” a suspect with two of the company’s prosthetic hands evades authorities because he leaves no fingerprints.
As one can imagine, the media doesn’t portray prosthetics in the most realistic ways, says Nathan Wagner, director of clinical training at Touch Bionics’ facility in Dublin.
“But I mean, it’s pretty cool technology,” he says. “In no way does it replace your hand, but it’s technology that can definitely increase independence and really help somebody that’s missing a limb, for sure.”
In 2009, Scotland-based Touch Bionics relocated its wholesale offices to Hilliard, and remained there until July of 2018, when the company moved to Bridge Park in Dublin. The office continues to be the only i-LIMB hand training facility in the U.S.
In 2016, when Touch Bionics was acquired by Iceland-based orthopaedics company Össur, the company officially included product lines for both upper limb and lower limb amputation. The training facility in Ohio still focuses on upper limb products, however.
Wagner, who joined the company the same year it arrived to Ohio, oversees the training that happens at the facility. After the product is sold to prosthetists mainly throughout the U.S. and Canada, Wagner will show a group that includes an occupational therapist, a prosthetist and a person that is missing a limb how to properly fit an artificial limb on its wearer.
“We don’t want to just sell them the product,” he says. “We want to sell them the product and then say, now, let us show you best practices on getting the best results with it.”
livingskin, a company Touch Bionics acquired in 2008, paints custom, lifelike coverings for the prosthetics. Images are taken at the Touch Bionics training center to capture the skin color and information of the wearer, in order to create the appearance of a natural hand, arm or limb. The silicone coverings are then painted at a facility in New York.
In the last decade or so, Touch Bionics products have evolved to function more and more naturally. The company is the developer of the world’s first multi-articulating bionic hand: Each one has a rotating thumb and motors in each finger that allow the hand to enclose the shape of the object it’s holding.
The company’s i-LIMB Hand was recognized as a TIME Magazine top invention in 2008.
“It’s a very high tech device. Lots of pieces, parts,” Wagner says. “It’s kind of like a Lego Kit, you know. You have to build it around the person’s limb.”
The wearer is also able to put specific fingers in a sleep mode, allowing them to complete more tasks.
“Just like your phone responds to being tilt from portrait to landscape, the hand senses that motion and then goes into a grip or a mode,” Wagner says. “So being able to kind of put them to sleep and have just certain fingers active can really increase independence.”
For Touch Bionics — which has visitors coming from as far as Venezuela, Japan, Australia and throughout North America — Bridge Park is “thebomb.com” in terms of impressing visitors, Wagner says.
“A lot of people have never been to Ohio before, to be quite honest. That’s one of these first questions I ask. Have you been to Columbus? Have you been to Ohio?” He says. “Most people are like, no, why would I be here?”
“And then you tell them, you let them enjoy the city, sightsee [in] the evenings and eat at some of our great restaurants, and they love it. We’re bringing in guests, and there’s nothing cooler about like a little walking community with the restaurants and pubs,” he continues. “That reflects on us as a company too. So it makes you kind of proud of where you live, and where you’re bringing people in.”
Dublin is a city of more than 47,000 residents located just northwest of Columbus, Ohio. The City of Dublin Economic Development team has a vision to make Dublin a Midwest IT Magnet through business leadership and sustainable workforce development. This commitment goes beyond short-term skills training to include long-term strategic and cultural support for the entire Dublin business community. Dublin is one of America’s Top 20 Creative Class Cities and is home to more than 20 corporate headquarters, an entrepreneurial center, 3,000+ businesses, world-class events and the urban, walkable Bridge Street District.