Nov.19, 2014 | By Alec

That 3D printing is a wonderful tool for developing customized and functional prosthetics, needs no further explanation. And that this same technology is an innovative and exciting tool for artistic also goes without saying. But who would have thought that 3D printed prosthetics could serve an artistic, as well as a practical function?

For that is exactly what the Japanese artist collaboration XSENSE have created. The XSENSE project is where (digital) art meets shapes. Artist Yoshinori Sakamaki (also known as sense) paints and draws beautiful scenes where the traditional meets the industrial, and these are subsequently given shapes and purposes in 3D by manufacturing artist Taketo Kobayashi.

Effectively, they're trying to redefine Japanese sub-culture as art and bring it to world through modern technology. And this can involve many different subjects, from the Shogun-era cultural and artistic expressions to modern day anime. This unique approach has already resulted in a very interesting modern interpretation of the age-old Japanese tea ceremony, involving 3D printed tools and a rap artist.

But their latest project takes a very different approach. Called 'More than Human', this project focuses on producing artistic prosthetic limbs that capture the identity and soul of the wearer and turn the negativity of using a limb into a positive expression of the self. 'With the power of art, we believe, people can overcome nativities coming from loss of part of body.'

While many practical 3D printed prosthetics exist (and some toy-like ones for kids as well), the XSENSE team is thus trying to develop it into something beautiful or cool, heavily relying on their unique interpretation of Japanese sub-culture. And as the pictures illustrate, they're succeeding quite well with awe-inspiring mecha or alien-like interpretations of limbs.

And there's more to expect in the near future. The More Than Human project will consist of another three phases in the near future. 'The next step will be to produce a prosthetic leg that can attach to current prosthetic sockets.' This will make them more practical and easier to produce in greater numbers, as the exterior of the prosthetic limbs is quick and safe to produce.

After that, they hope to produce haute couture prosthetic limbs like those seen above. And as a final step – in collaboration with an expert of mechanical feet, Ken Endo – they hope to add a functional and mechanically sound walking purpose as well.

Obviously, 3D printing is crucial in all of these steps, as there are so many unique and geometrically difficult shapes involved. '3D printing is the best technology to produce one-off shapes. We would like to make the desire of wearer into real shape, so prosthetic limbs will not only be a tool to fill the loss of limbs, but also strengthen and reveal the identity of wearer.'

But of course it's also crucial in producing prosthetics strong enough to hold the weight of a person, while remaining light enough to wear. To realize that, they are also working with the Tokyo metropolitan industrial research institute. As for the printing itself, they have fortunately procured the assistance of Stratasys Japan. That company have allowed the XSENSE duo to use their state-of-the-art Objet500 Connex3 3D printer, which is doubtlessly crucial in achieving those gorgeous results.

But while their artistic expressions are very important in this project, they above all hope to return confidence, pride and hope back to amputees everywhere. 'But more than that we would like to change the idea of disability itself. If prosthetic limbs become more than human, both from artistic and from a functional point of view, disability could seemingly disappear, or even turn into ability.'

The 3D printed artificial limbs were showcased at "Super Welfare EXPO", Shibuya, Tokyo from November 12, 2014 to November 18, 2014.

While dealing with all that trauma will be a long and arduous process for anyone, let's hope that gorgeous prosthetics like these will help amputees along that road.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Greg Mentgen wrote at 2/12/2016 2:43:55 AM:

absolutely amazing. keep up the good work.

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