YouBionic – The 3D Printed Robotic Controlled Prosthetic Hand is One Step Closer to Reality

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack in July, we covered a company called YouBionic, who was looking to create a 3D printed bionic, Arduino-controlled prosthetic hand. At that time they were still working on the design as well as the mechanism to drive the hand’s movements. Today, however, we get word from the company that they have finished their first prototype of this hand. 3D printed using flexible materials on a selective laser sintering machine, this prosthetic hand looks to target a final release price of just €1000.

If you are an avid reader of 3DPrint.com you are probably very familiar with the plethora of 3D printed prosthetic hand stories we have covered. Most of these are from an organization called e-NABLE, and they can be created for less than $50 a piece. This might just make the €1000 price tag that the YouBionic hands eventually will sell for seem a bit pricey, but fact is there are some major differences between products.

While the e-NABLE hands are 3D printed, they are done so on very affordable consumer-level 3D printers, while the YouBionic hands are printed on industrial level machines that can cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. By no means does this make the e-NABLE hands any less effective in what they do though. The e-NABLE hands are not operated by any electronics (at least not the mainstream ones which we are all familiar with), while the YouBionic hands utilize a very sophisticated computer systems in order to provide robotic movements to the hand, based on signals sent from the wearer’s brain. Both solutions appear to have a ton of potential in the future, depending exactly on what is required and desired by the individual who will be wearing the device. Fact is though, traditional prosthetic hands cost in the $40,000 range, thus making both options much more affordable.

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The YouBionic team, lead by founder Federico Ciccarese, believes that they have something groundbreaking and special on their hands (no pun intended).

“The first prototype of Youbionic will be able to execute the main holds necessary to perform life’s essential deeds and it will also be possible to update its software in order to improve it over time, just like a smartphone,” explained Federico Ciccarese, Founder of YouBionic. “The hand’s movements are made possible by the complex internal geometries that form its parts and which can be manufactured only through 3D printing technologies such as selective laser sintering (SLS). This new mechanical technology has never been used before. It works by “deformation of the material”. Every characteristic and behavior can be planned exclusively through its geometrical design and it requires minimal assembly. During the design and development processes we can modify the tiniest details for improved efficiency.”

The Youbionic hand has been developed by combining the main skeletal structure with rotational transportation leveraging mechanisms. They are synchronized in such a way that they can obtain a double rotation, starting from a single rotation. “This means that a realistic movement can be obtained through a simple actuator,” says Ciccarese. “The brain is an Arduino board and this ­ coupled with sourcing of other commercially available components ­ makes it possible for us to target a €1000 price tag.”

YouBionic has a goal of simplifying people’s lives, while at the same time enabling them to reduce their feelings of embarrassment which occur frequently when wearing a prosthetic hand. “I tried to make it as pleasing to the eye as possible while also focusing on making its movements appear natural,” explained Ciccarese.

youbionicnew5One of the key features in the YouBionic hand is the fact that it will make it easy for the replacement of electronics, actuators and additional 3D printed parts. One of the major deterrents, which severely limits the ability of children to receive prosthetic hands, is the fact that they need replacing at least every two years. Unlike adults who rarely need a newly sized device, children are constantly growing, and their proportions are constantly changing. Insurance companies are reluctant to pay for prosthesis for children, and the price tag for a $40,000 device only multiplies as a child grows. The fact that the YouBionic hand, which already is priced 40-times lower than traditional prosthetic hands, can be modified with new parts as a child grows, makes it a really great solution to the current problem.

YouBionic is currently looking for investors interested and willing to back their idea, in order to help in the development and creation of these final 3D printed Arduino controlled prosthetic hands. If all goes as planned there may finally be a reliable, custom, robtic option for children and adults alike.

What do you think about this creation? Discuss in the YouBionic forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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