Mar 30, 2016 | By Alec

Veterans of the 3D printing community will have doubtlessly seen countless 3D printed prosthetic concepts featuring with prosthetic grips already, but in some ways those excellent creations are only laying the groundwork for a true revolutionary medical creation: 3D printed bionic prosthetics, that register and function through electronic signals from the arm's muscles. Several 3D printing initiatives are involved in something of a race towards the market, and one of the most promising among them has just reached a very important stage. The Italian-made YouBionic, a gorgeous white hand that looks like it belongs to a robot in the movie I, Robot (2004), is now available for pre-order. And at a fraction of the cost of a conventional bionic hand.

Indeed, it is in the price tag that we can see the true potential of 3D printed prosthetics. While existing products might easily cost you as much as €20,000 (or $22,500 USD), the Italian team behind the YouBionic is dreaming of a price tag of just €1,000. They are coming quite close already with their pre-order, which is now available for €1,200. We have been reporting on this fascinating 3D printed bionic hand since 2014, and the Italian engineers have been edging towards this moment for some time.

And for that money, designer Federico Ciccarese is really delivering a high quality hand that has been almost completely 3D printed using selective laser sintering (SLS) technology. “We have evaluated several choices but we have no doubt that 3D printing is what we believe to be the best manufacturing technology for projects such as ours. 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” he says of their choice. 3D printing also allows for the swapping of individual parts, which is especially useful for developing children. The result, as you can see for yourself, looks to be coming straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. Even the tiniest details of the human hand's complex internal geometries have been taken into account.

But of course 3D printing a hand prosthetic has been done before, so YouBionic has also combined this with a very impressive bionic gripping system that has been fully based on the movement of actual hands. “The mechanical intuition that we derived from a direct observation of muscular fibers have provided us with the necessary elements to design the entire bionic hand,” he says. “They are characterized by flexible geometries that deform like muscles, that contract and release like fibers, to best execute any movement, as if they were biological limbs.” To do so, it is packed with microprocessors (Arduino), servos and sensors, which are mostly off-the-shelf products to make the prosthetic as modular as possible.

While a lot of design projects talk the talk, the YouBionic also seems to walk to walk. As the designer explained to, they have been focusing on increasingly the wearability of the YouBionic in recent months. To do so, Ciccarese even designed a custom arm support that you can see in the clip below. It has helped them to explore how the prosthetic integrates with the body.

Among others, it has helped them solve some issues and reach the pre-order stage. If you’re interested, you can contact the Italian makers via the pre-order form on their website here. Also be sure to add some details so they can best assist clients. While progress is thus excellent, Ciccarese added that they are still looking for investors to help them break into the prosthetic market. “We are currently looking for potential investors interested in financing our research & development activities, in order to take the YouBionic prosthetic hand from a potentially disrupting concept to a finalized product that can change the lives of thousands of people,” he says. At least their product definitely has the capacity to do so.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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