Federico Ciccarese founded Youbionic 4 years ago and told us he works “for the evolution of human species.” Youbionic believes that technology “can be used for the increase in human capabilities and intervention in the replacement of parts of our body which are not working properly. Youbionic commits to building devices to make us live better and longer; we intend to occupy all of our resources to merge the biological body with mechatronic components.” In the coming years more and more people will be augmented in some way through technology. We’re used to pacemakers and orthopedic implants but what else will we turn to? Youbionic has been working on bionic hands and arms for us to use. Over the past years the company has gone from rather simple 3D printed hands to this smoothly working movement mimic-ing bionic arm.
The Youbionic arm itself, the fingers and all of the parts are 3D printed. The remarkably light package is worn on top of existing arms, and it moves in a very smooth life-like manner. The 3D printed fingers move in concert with your real ones or can be controlled externally. Creator Frederico is working on a mind-controlled version of his bionic arm (which through human brain interface headsets could be available a lot sooner than we think). The most difficult thing to do with bionic arms is to make the fingers work with the correct resistivity needed to grip things or truly pick up things. Frederico has worked hard to get that kind of functionality to the point where the arm can pick up and manipulate many things around you. The fingers are modular and could be replaced by different attachments. One great thing about this product is that the files for the arm are for sale now for $149 while the files for the hand is $99. You can print out the other components yourself or use a 3D print service should you not have one. There are also actuators and other parts you would need to buy separately. By selling the files, Frederico hopes to fund his team’s further development. I love that Frederico has clearly spent a lot of time trying to make the arm not only work well but also be inexpensive. The arm is 3D printed out of PLA and uses Actuonix Linear Actuators. In addition to several updated bionic arms, Youbionic has developed a double hand device. Right now the Youbionic arm looks to be working beautifully as you can see in the video above.
Youbionic has been working on the challenge of making a bionic arm since 2014. 3DPrint.com spoke to Frederico, and he told us how he has been, “studying for years how the human body works and design interfaces that can integrate with it.” He truly believes that “At this moment experimental devices may appear, but soon they will be a great evolution.” Befitting of his low prices Frederico uses” the flexibility of 3D printing to create low-cost prototypes, we sell our results to fund new research and so on.”
He sees that ”These devices can increase people’s abilities when worn by a healthy body, but can also recover abilities if they replace non-functioning body parts.” Frederico thinks that as ”soon as we get used to seeing things like this.” Federico’s low-cost prosthetic costs, with all the parts, one-twentieth of a currently commercially available one.
In the medical arena specifically, we will see a lot of 3D printing innovation whereby inventors, designers, and innovators will use 3D printers to create novel devices. Most medical devices and other things are regulated beyond the reach of most inventors. In areas where innovation is accessible, we will see a lot of 3D printing activity. Making versatile and also possibly patient specific low-cost medical devices is going to be a major innovation area for our industry in the coming years. Bionic arms are some of the most challenging things I can think of in this area. Through selling the files and letting you print out your own arm, Youbionic is also embarking on new business models in 3D printing and in MedTech. Will this kind of a model work? Will we bring the breakneck pace of 3D printing innovation to medicine and prosthetics? Or will fear of broken necks mean that an increased regulatory burden will fall on us as well? What is the future for 3D printing innovation in this area? For Youbionic the future means, “getting feedback and using this to improve the designs” and “partnering with investors to help us accelerate progress and achieve goals faster.”