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iLimb glove self destructs (in-storage product suicide) [WTF]

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - iLimb glove self destructs (in-storage product suicide) [WTF]; published February 15, 2016, 16:02; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=5651.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1568486993, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - iLimb glove self destructs (in-storage product suicide) [WTF]}}, month = {February},year = {2016}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=5651}}


During the last few weeks, I was wearing my "real prosthetic arm" (the one that works for work, the body powered arm) because real work is a bit too much for my "unreal prosthetic arm" (the "iLimb ultra revolution") for some reasons (I pulled weights of up to >100kg a few times, et cetera, I always wear my body powered arm and a Hosmer work hook for that, which however does work like a charm as that real prosthetic arm is geared towards these uses). I then let my skin recover and was not wearing any prosthetic arm for a bit after that.

With the effect that my "unreal prosthetic arm"  sat in the shelf for a few weeks.

There, as I found out when I wanted to put it back to use, it had committed in-storage product suicide. The glove had been put onto the hand on October 30th and the hand, since then, was not used more than a total of maybe 10-20 minutes, doing not much I guess.

Hand and glove all had been in what seemed to be good condition, and not damaged prior to this in-storage damage that the hand had inflicted unto the glove.

In essence, it seems that the sharp edges of the iLimb's body had cut through the thin silicone of the glove. As a reminder, here is the current "verdict" - what Touch Bionics all wants to tell us in their own words:

ilimbrevolution

So, sweet, I had not done anything bad. And, not sweet, the glove is still kaputt as an exploded whale fish on a beach shore. So what is to blame? Something must be guilty here. In fact, product incompatibility and ill fashioned product design as well as actually absent technical checking for interface risk areas and absent checking for possible glove re-enforcement regions come to mind to begin with.

As close examination of the torn edges reveals, the gloves necessarily have to be designed to be very thin, as the motors of the hand are so weak that they stop moving fingers with any thicker material. At the same time, thin gloves are particularly prone to tearing up if the underlying structures are hard and edgy, and we do have to admit that there is no other prosthetic hand that is quite as edgy as the iLimb. This is a clear situation of "the prosthetic hard plastic hand killing all the gloves".

According to the Touch Bionics' user manual of the "iLimb ultra revolution", they state "Do not use without an approved cover". This seems to suggest that there is a "process of approval" that we all do not know about. So it is now that the extensive technical details of the "approval" process become interesting.

After all we pay for exactly that: approval the deserves the name. Which also begs the question whether selling gloves for a premium should not be their business model instead of just selling edgy hands?

IMGP0447r IMGP0434r

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Customer service

So I asked the customer service of Touch Bionics for details on exactly what the process of "approving" gloves entails. Specifically, I asked:

In addition, I really would like to replace this glove with a more durable glove. I go glove hunting myself but to save ourselves too much correspondence, I would really like you to tell me what all - technically, step by step, possibly by just sending me a copy of your in house "glove  approval manual" - goes into approving these gloves, and so I can see where possible candidate gloves would have to be discarded early on. I can not in the long run have to rely on totally crappy materials, you have to understand that, as much as I like the assumption these gloves were actually "approved". Once I really find a useful glove I think you should ""approve"" then I would send you that then. But first I would like to see your test specs for gloves. After all I run around because of these glove failures too, right?

The customer service person replied:

In order to be able to take the required actions, I would need to know the serial number of your hand and the serial number of the teared glove. Please also contact your prosthetist as we are not dealing with users of the hand and therefore all communication needs to go through them.

 

Summary

  • Touch Bionics sells edgy "bionic" hands for a real premium. They also sell gloves, for a real premium. The hands are weak but edgy so thin gloves are required, and they break all the time, mostly due to polite and careful "use".
  • This, however, is the first report of a glove that ripped to slithereens all by itself, left alone in the cupboard.
  • Touch Bionics' user manual states something about gloves having to "be approved". This somehow insinuates there being a "process of approval". I asked them to tell me what that process of approval entails. They do not know! They. Do. Not. Know.
  • They take my money but not my (valid if not urgent) questions. They only talk to prosthetic technicians. Not to amputees. Not. To. Amputees.
  • So, we still have no freaking idea about how on earth their (required) "glove approval" process works. One thing it does not prevent: from gloves going bad all by themselves. All. By. Themselves.
  • A barely used glove of (to the day) three months of age disintegrates by itself, and Touch Bionics does not know whether they can replace it on warranty. They. Do. Not. Know.

They sure got to be kidding me.

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