Jun 2, 2015 | By Alec

While we’ve seen plenty of interesting 3D printed prosthetics in all shapes, sizes and functions – from models with mechanical grips to bionic sensor action – none of them are advanced enough to be operated with your mind. And yet that is exactly what the 19-year-old Easton LaChappelle has made. Calling it Anthromod, the young man from Colorado has developed a sensor-based prosthetic that doesn’t, like the MyoWare, rely on muscle contractions, but actually on your brainwaves.

This truly remarkable concept is even more impressive because of Easton’s young age. As he explained, he has already been toying with basic robotics since he was fourteen and found it remarkably easy to progress to robotic hands and more. In fact, he says that the technology itself isn’t so complicated, but is held back by the immense costs involved.

And that is exactly why Anthromod completely relies on 3D printing technology. ‘This reads right about 10 channels of the brain, so it kind of works kind of like a muscle sensor in that it picks up small electric discharges and turns that into something you can actually read within software, and then we actually track patterns and try and convert that into movement,’ Easton explains. ‘So with this I'm actually able to change grips, grip patterns, based on facial gestures, and then use the raw actual brainwaves and focus to actually close the hand or open the clamp or hand.’

Easton and his prosthetics.

These brainwave-based prosthetics are also remarkably easy to operate through a wireless headset. ‘A good example is we actually had an amputee use the wireless brainwave headset to control a hand, and he was able to fluently control the robotic hand in right around about 10 minutes, so the learning curve is hardly a learning curve any more,’ Easton added. The algorithms operating the hand have even incorporated options for smaller and larger weights, making use largely intuitive.

An early prototype.

Easton is currently on the fifth iteration of his robotic prosthetics, all of which are 3D printed prototypes intended for different applications. The young engineer is even envisioning a hand that can be used at distances when, for instance, dealing with explosives or dangerous chemicals. Think explosive dismantling, hazardous laboratory experiments and so on. ‘I really tried to make this [safety prosthetic] as human-like as possible - this is probably about my fifth generation of the full robotic arm, and this is controlled using a full tele-robotic system, so there's actually a glove that you wear that tracks your hand movements, accelerometers to track your wrist and elbow, and then an IMU sensor as well to track your bicep rotation as well as your shoulder movement, and that gets all translated wirelessly to the robotic arm where it will copy what you do,’ he explains.

All the while, 3D printing technology is key in keeping the costs as low as possible while keeping all design options open. ‘So 3D printing allows you to create something that's human-like, something that's extremely customized, again for a very low cost, which for certain applications such as prosthetics, is a really big part of it,’ he says. In fact, he estimates that the entire Anthromod costs about $600 to manufacture, while all designs are open source with the express purpose of making it suitable for any type of situation, amputation or genetic defect.

In the near future, Easton is therefore envisioning a platform where people can easily adjust and share prosthetic designs for any purpose. ‘A big reason we designed this on the consumer level is because we made this open source, we want someone that has a 3D printer, or very little printing experience, to be able to replicate this, to be able to use this for new applications, to be able to adapt it into new situations, so it's really exciting to see what people will start doing with something like this,’ he adds. As such, every piece is modular: the joints, the bolts, the grips, everything. Could this be the future of 3D printed prosthetics?

Easton being interviewed by Reuters.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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