The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and the technological development of Adam’s Hand®

The acronym TRL comes from Technology Readiness Level and corresponds to a scale of numerical values that estimate the technological maturity of a product.

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Where do TRLs come from?

The NASA was the first that used this tool to quantify its technological development.

In 1977 it started to assign values compared to the levels of technological skills then evolved in its field.

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Starting from 80s the air force also used TRLs, as the electronics field and the pharmaceutical industry did in 90s.

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Today the TRLs are used for the evaluation of technological maturity of any product, and they are also used in academia, especially for research and development activities.

They also represent one of the key parameters to access Horizon 2020 funding.

The values of the TRLs

There are different interpretations for the value of the different levels, ranging from 1 to 9, and their application changes depending on the context in which they are applied.

The most-used definition and parameters until now are those contained in the General Annexes of Horizon 2020, which internally provides the following TRL definitions:

  • TRL 1 = basic principles observed
  • TRL 2 =technology concept formulated
  • TRL 3 =experimental proof of concept
  • TRL 4 = technology validated in lab
  • TRL 5 =technology validated in relevant environment
  • TRL 6 = technology demonstrated in relevant environment
  • TRL 7 = system prototype demonstration in operational environment
  • TRL 8 = system complete and qualified
  • TRL 9 = actual system proven in operational environment (competitive manufacturing in the case of key enabling technologies; or in space)

In a more general way, these values allow to identify the starting and finishing point of technological maturity of any product, and the values start from the conceptualization of a new technology, up to its introduction on the market.

The intermediate levels correspond to the phases of research and development, testing, prototyping and piloting, up to the monitoring of experimental production and operational phases.

The technological development of Adam’s Hand®

Like any product almost ready to be launched on the market, Adam’s Hand® has also gone through its development stages, evolving in the different levels of technological maturity.

Adam’s Hand® project was started by the CEO and Founder of BionIT Labs® during his Bachelor’s Thesis in Industrial Engineering, regarding the study of human hand’s dynamics and cinematics, which paved the way for the device ideation (TRL0).

The work was then carried on with his Master degree in Mechanical Engineering, during which the technological concept behind Adam’s Hand® was developed (TRL1, TRL2), and it led to a Master’s Thesis containing an experimental proof of concept (TRL3) of the device, and the result was the Italian patent application.

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Adam’s Hand® alpha-prototype (TRL 4-5) has been tested by our first user, Paolo, who was born without his forearm due to a congenital amelia. In order to achieve the alpha-prototype, the team has worked for nearly one year and a half, focusing on designing an underactuated mechanism on which Adam’s Hand® is based. At the same time the prototype of the electronic system has been developed, as well as the calibration interface based on machine learning algorithms.

Adam’s Hand® beta version (TRL 6) has been developed in just 8 months and it has improved design and aesthetics, metal finger joints, customizable phalanges length and reduced dimensions. The device was tested by 4 users, who confirm its simplicity of use.

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Adam’s Hand® pre-series is currently under development (TRL 7), with expected improvements in weight, dimensions, aesthetics, grip force and speed, simplicity of repair and maintenance. Moreover, the corresponding calibration app had an upgrade in terms of functionalities, GUI, aesthetics and reliability.

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The achievement of the TRL8 is expected for this summer, following the CE certification that will be acquired after the related laboratory tests and the complete definition of all the production methods of its various sub-components.

The device will then be marketed and subjected to continuous post-market surveillance – reaching TRL9 – in order to monitor its performance through the collection and the analysis of information relating to its use.

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Adam’s Hand® is not the only device currently under development in our laboratories: in fact, we will shortly provide important news regarding the results of the tight research and development process carried out during these months.

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