Being able to use a prosthetic hand underwater might seem like an obvious necessity for an amputee, but it was this invention which skyrocketed a Kiwi company to its success.
Taska Prosthetics has produced the world’s first waterproof myoelectric prosthetic hand and is making waves in the industry, from the U.S. to Europe.
The company won a Supreme Award at Westpac’s Canterbury Business Champion Awards in September and was a finalist in the Westpac Growth Grants programme earlier in the year.
Taska’s CEO Jamie Cairns said the company grew out of an injury to founder Mathew Jury.
“Our founder who is a scientist, engineer and inventor, had a mountain biking accident in the early 2000s and broke both his wrists.
“That experience sparked his empathy for people who can’t use their hands altogether and the idea came from that,” Cairns said.
What can this prosthetic hand do?
Taska’s design is durable, has fingers that have the same motion as real fingers, motorised thumb rotation and is even controllable via Bluetooth, as well as being waterproof. Its finger grip is controlled by grip cycle buttons on the back of the hand.
Its low-profile wrist has a mechanical rotation of 90 degrees and has in-built flexible wrist options with three lockable positions.
The hand also features soft finger pads which helps grip support, so it makes picking up small objects easy.
Despite Taska’s international success, the product is still manufactured out of Christchurch and is made up of over 400 parts.
How much does the prosthetic hand cost?
“We’re a niche business in New Zealand so, because of the small population, we have only issued around a dozen, however in the U.S. we have sold hundreds and have the demand,” Cairns said.
It’s a 30,000 Euro ($52,500NZD) prosthetic if bought privately or it can be supplied through health insurance, depending on the user’s policy.
“After a traumatic accident, the patient would speak to a surgeon who puts them in touch with a prosthetic clinic,” Cairns said.
“From there they help the user find a prosthetic hand depending on their insurance.
“Our hands have two-year warranties, with annual services, plus three-year extended warranties available.
“It is a tech device so it’s not going to last for a lifetime. Would you keep your phone for more than five years?” Cairns said.
Taksa was 10 years in the making before launching as a trading company in 2017, which is also when they started selling on the US market.
What does the future hold for prosthetics?
“We’ve got lots of other things coming, we’re doing research and development in the U.S. at the moment, on some new things that we can’t talk about.
“But one interesting new thing in the industry is sensing hands.
“This incorporates sensing tech in the palms of the hands to detect temperature and texture, and we’re looking at wrists and elbows.
“We’re also looking at downsizing the hand, at the moment we have two sizes (large and medium).
“The medium size suits European female adults, but downsizing could fit smaller people and kids,” Cairns said.
Taska was supported by a Growth Grant from Callaghan Innovation, which aided their ability for research and development.
Callaghan Innovation’s Business Innovation Adviser for Health, Andrew Clews, said Taska is a great example of true innovation in the medtech space.
“We hear a lot about pharmaceutical developments and surgical implant devices, but this is an impressive combination of technologies that is delivering a pretty futuristic and leading-edge product to an underserved set of customers globally,” Clews says.