Low-cost 3D printed prosthetics have acted as an accessible solution for amputees to improve their quality of life by regaining mobility and dexterity in limbs that were once lost.
Federico Ciccarese, Founder of Italian technology startup Youbionic, and his team are developing 3D printed prosthetics that go beyond limb replacement and medical applications. The artificial limbs can be attached to existing arms/legs to enable the average human to ‘outperform.’
In an exclusive interview for 3D Printing Industry, I speak to Ciccarese to learn more about his latest concept for a 3D printed arm and hand that will potentially create an “augmented human.”
Helping 3D printed hands
In 2014, Ciccarese and his team began the development of a 3D printable bionic hand operated by an Arduino microcontroller, a set of actuators and three electrodes, activated by human nerve impulses. This venture started as the Youbionic team recognized that new technologies such as additive manufacturing can create bionic limbs at a fraction of the price of those already on the market.
“3D printing is the technology that allows us to realize parts of devices at a low price, but the most important feature is that it gives us the possibility to realize very complex geometries,” says Ciccarese.
A year later, Youbionic released the design of its 3D printed exo-arms and continued with finger tests for its first five-finger hand prototype. Following the success of these tests and further iterations using “generative and organic design” software, Youbionic debuted its augmented human prosthetic devices, the 3D printed double hand for one-handed ambidexterity.
Now, with four years of experience in 3D printing and robotics, Youbionic is visualizing the capability of a 3D printed humanoid.
The road towards a 3D printed humanoid
According to Ciccarese, an augmented human/humanoid “is a man who has characteristics and abilities out of the ordinary, qualities that he obtained thanks to devices added to his body and learned to use succeeding in performing operations that are normally impossible to perform.”
“I think that studying the human body and trying to replicate it and improve itself day after day can make us evolve to surpass [one another]. Trying to imagine the humanity between many and many years, I expect that the machines have merged with the biological body allowing us to defeat death and live forever.”
Helping Ciccarese realize the potential for a 3D printed humanoid is Youbionic’s latest addition to its augmented human range – the 3D printed Hand-and-Arm device.
Equipped with a Rhinoceros 3D design software, Flashforge Creator Pro 3D Printer, PLA black filament, 6 PQ12 Actuonix Linear Actuators, and numerous muscle sensors, Youbionic created an attachable limb that replicates human movement to help its user conduct multiple tasks at once. This includes object grasping, opening, and writing, while still having the functionality of your original limbs.
With the Youbionic Hand-and-Arm device, Ciccarese and his team see further potential for other robotic 3D printed limbs, which will eventually merge with the human anatomy.
“The arm is only the beginning of a road towards a humanoid,” Ciccarese concludes.
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Featured image shows the Youbionic Hand-and-arm device. Clip via Youbionic.