Over and over again, we are reporting on incredible stories of 3D printed prosthetic hands. There have been dozens of people with birth defects, as well as many more amputees, that have benefited from the customization and affordability of 3D printed prosthetic hands. All of the 3D printed prosthetic devices that we have seen so far are manually controlled by the user. For example, the Cyborg Beast, as well as the RoboHand are controlled by cables that run from the finger tips to the wrist area of the device. When the user bends his or her wrist, the cables are pulled, and the fingers flex. In many cases, these hands do not work sufficiently, due to the lack of wrist mobility of the user.
One thing that we have yet to see, although without a doubt there are several individuals, groups, and companies working toward the idea, is a 3D printed prosthetic that is electronically controlled based on muscle movements. This is the obvious progession in the line of work that many people have been carrying out in order to develop the best possible, and most affordable prosthetic hands.
A company called YouBionic has just announced that they are in the process of developing a bionic, electronically controlled, 3D printed prosthetic hand. Federico Ciccarese tells 3DPrint.com that the hand will be controlled by an Arduino microcontroller and commercial servomotors. The prototype of the hand has been created using selective laser sintering of nylon, but Ciccarese wants to create future Youbionic hands on FDM based 3D printers.
The product should be developed later this summer, if all goes as planned. “We have already raised interest on the part of great people, that we will soon present this Bionic Hand to,” explained Ciccarese. “[Our] passion drives us to work hard to get the best product possible. We are implementing an innovative mechanical system to eliminate the need for assembly and get the hand to print in one single 3D printed piece.”
Using flexible material allows them to printout a Youbionic hand in one piece. This contradicts the method that previous 3d printed prosthetics have used. It should make for much easier production, and a whole lot less work on the part of the assembly teams. Check out the video of a single-finger prototype of this design.
“The aim of our research is to be able to make an artificial hand that can help those who unfortunately have lost one, giving them the ability to perform the basic actions of every day [life],” explains Youbionic on their website. “We want our product to be appealing to as many people as possible.”
Because of the hefty price tag on prosthetic devices, many people go their entire lives without access to one. Affordable 3D printed prosthetics such as the ones that e-NABLE and RoboHand create, as well as this Youbionic hand, provide these individuals with a solution to their life-long handicap, without carrying with them the huge costs.
“We are now building the prototype and writing the code to control the movement through muscle sensors,” explained Ciccarese
Muscle sensors work by detecting the electronic pulses in the surrounding muscles which allows the user of the prosthetic hand to operate it in a similar way that someone would control their real hand. The sensors detect intended movement and allow the Youbionic hand to respond in the appropriate manner.
When trying to decide what the best method would be of manufacturing a prosthetic hand that could be created in one piece, Youbionic determined that 3D printing was their best option. “We evaluated several choices but no doubt 3D printing is what we believe [is] the best,” says the company. “We are excited about all that this technology can do. Its strengths are the geometric construction potential and the product price.”
If Youbionic is successful in bringing to market a working 3D printed prosthetic hand that can be operated based on muscle movements, at a price under $1,000, this should make the lives of tens of thousands of people quite a bit better. All of those individuals that could not previously afford a prosthetic hand, would suddenly have a completely customizable device available to them at an easily affordable price. What do you think? Discuss this bionic hand in the Youbionic 3D Printed Prosthetic Hand forum thread on 3DPB.com