Dec 30, 2016 | By Benedict

Federico Ciccarese, an engineer from Italy, has announced the availability of Youbionic, a 3D printed robotic hand that can be controlled with muscle movement. The device can be used to replace a missing hand or as a supplemental second hand to increase the physical capabilities of the wearer.

3D printed prosthetic limbs, from e-NABLE to Open Bionics, have become one of the most exciting and ultimately satisfying end products of the 3D printing phenomenon. Thanks to free and affordable CAD software, an online network of designers and shared designs, and a maker community that is willing to use its 3D printing equipment for a worthy cause, creating 3D printed hands, arms, and legs is now commonplace, and has given limb-different people the chance to get themselves affordable, well-fitted prostheses.

But while people with missing limbs are understandably the primary recipients of 3D printed prostheses, some developers of such devices are targeting a broader audience for their creations that includes those who have retained at least some limb function. Take Youbionic, for example, a new robotic arm project spearheaded by a group of engineers in Pavia, Italy. The Youbionic hand, a 3D printed myoelectric prosthesis, can used to replace a missing hand, since it can be controlled by muscle movements as though it were a real body part. But it can also be used in addition to an existing hand in order to increase the wearer’s physical capabilities.

At first glance, the idea of developing a 3D printed robotic hand that also works for people who still have an organic hand seems a little confusing. Why would engineers spend time developing a prosthesis for people who don’t need one? In actual fact, however, the versatility of the Youbionic device makes perfect sense. Consider, for example, the large demographic of people with weak, injured, or partially functional hands. Many prosthetic devices are ill-suited for these people, because they are designed to attach to a stump and not to fit over or around an existing hand. For these people, a robotic hand that can fit over their own hand is the perfect solution.

The Youbionic hand is therefore designed to either supplement or replace a limb, making it suitable for a broad audience, including those nearer to being able-bodied. The device is powered by an Arduino microprocessor, servos, and various sensors, while the bulk of its body is 3D printed. “We have evaluated several choices but we have no doubt that 3D printing is the best manufacturing technology for projects such as ours,” Ciccarese explained. “We are very excited about what this technology is capable of and we want to believe in it now, as its strengths are in geometric construction potential and the ability to optimize the price of single, unique, bespoke products.”

The 3D printed Youbionic hand became available for pre-order earlier this year, but is now ready to ship at a price of €1,200. According to its creators, Youbionic will turn out to be one of many affordable bionic devices hitting the market in the near future. “In the next few years we will see the arrival of bionics and limbs [in the media],” said Youbionic founder Federico Ciccarese, who predicts that such devices will “help us carry out chores at home, on a journey, in the workplace, and certainly also in our spare time.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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