With a number of 3D printed innovations, we have the privilege to watch over time—and often impatiently wait—as they evolve from concept to development to an actual tangible device. This has definitely been the case with the YouBionic Hand, which I wrote about just last year, and we first heard about back in 2014. While we follow the world of 3D printed prosthetics closely, from a recent and amazing Spider-Man arm to that of a fabricated leg for Champ the German Shepherd, it’s very clear that the YouBionic device is on a different level altogether—thus the time involved as we’ve wait to report on its official release.
Italy’s Federico Ciccarese and his team expect this machine for the hand to add more than simple functionality. With this design they aim to transform the world of prosthetics forever, offering users the most realistic thing possible—and providing the opportunity for movement that would otherwise be impossible.
The YouBionic functions with an Arduino brain, adding electronics and—ultimately—robotics to the quotient. This allows it to integrate with the body, offering help and support for the wearer. While these feaures also add to the pricetag a bit, users should find the cost at €1200 (around $1355 USD) well worth it—although the team put great thought to offering the most affordability possible. The YouBionic is therefore made up of standard components, and in the end, the team was ‘particularly impressed by the quality’ of such parts.
“In recent months we have focused on wearability of [the] YouBionic hand,” Ciccarese told 3DPrint.com. “I designed a support for my arm to be able to explore it firsthand.”
The hand offers an entire movement system that allows for the hand and fingers to deform just as muscles do, contracting and releasing. As Ciccarese and his team state on their website, it’s ‘as if they were biological limbs.’
They also state that 3D printing was the only way to go for this device, upon exploring options. Even further, they are able to make the design in just one print.
“We have evaluated several choices but we have no doubt that 3D printing is what we believe to [be the] best manufacturing technology projects such as ours,” they say. “We are very excited about what this technology is capable of and we want to believe in it now, as its strengths are in the geometric construction potential and the ability to optimize the price of single, unique bespoke products.”
Bearing a futuristic, elegant design, the YouBionic was truly made possible as the team delved deeply into the study of muscular fibers—thus allowing the design to emulate them as much as possible. The sensors within the electronic hand are intuitive and able to allow the hand to respond to what is an intended movement emanating from the actual brain of the wearer.
With this particular material and construction, users are able to pick up items in just as delicate a manner as they would with a real hand; for example, the hands can wrap around a bottle of water normally, rather than squeezing it too tightly. The general concept is to use the device when wearing it to project yourself into another place, away from the body. This makes even more sense as you check out the YouBionic hand and see its range of mobility in the video below.