Bionic 3D printing has been witnessing innovative leaps for some time now. Inspired from nature, bionics has some special characteristics not always realisable by straight forward engineering calculations. From vision-less microorganisms deep inside Mariana Trench to high-altitude fir trees on top of Himalayas, every creature has something to tell us about its design speciality. Here is an article about how spider’s legs inspired a devoted dad to create a bionic arm for his baby son using 3D printing.
Sol is a baby boy born to Kate and Ben Ryan in Bangor, England in March 2015. Named after solar eclipse on the day he was born, Sol had an undetected clot on his upper left arm. So his arm had to be amputated within ten days. The family was informed that no proper prosthetic arm was available until the baby was 3 or 4 years old. Deeply saddened by the unexpected turn of events, Ben Ryan explored ways to help his son use his both arms during this period of early brain development. He turned to bionic 3D printing to design and develop the right prosthetic arm for his beloved son.
BIONIC 3D PRINTING PROJECT
The former psychology lecturer left his job and involved full time in the prosthetic limb development. He derived his working principle inspired from how spiders move their legs. He then decided to use user-squashed fluid sacks as the control means for grabbing mechanism. Within two months he taught himself the basics of product design and came up with a preliminary model. Using his Microsoft Xbox Kinect scanner connected to his laptop, he then scanned his son’s arm while he was asleep. Then he 3D printed it from the local university and made the first prototype of Sol’s prosthetic arm. The bionic 3D printed arm successfully got integrated with Sol, he is able to grip things and power the hydraulic limb himself.
Ben declared that he also intends to use bionic 3D printing and develop prosthetic limbs for babies across the world. He founded his startup Ambionics to make 3D printable and body powered hydraulic prosthetics for very young amputees. He is also running a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo to raise ₤150,000 ($162,000) to develop the business. The device is produced with better cost and time efficiency through the use of 3D printing compared to conventional prosthetics in the market. As a result once established, thousands of children between 1 and 2 years of age will have the opportunity to get fitted with a prosthetic.
“I’m not a designer or an engineer – out of pure determination and love for my son, I taught myself how to use design software (Autodesk Fusion 360) last summer and using just a lap top, an Xbox 360 Kinect scanner and my local University’s 3D printers, and created this unique technology. It could potentially be worn by millions!” he is quoted saying in the crowdfunding site.
Applicability to a noble cause tends to make a technology very powerful and revolutionary. That combined with nature’s secrets clearly induces a sense of awe. There are more wonders to expect in bionic 3D printing in the days to come. Let us know if you wish to know the science behind any specific bionic 3D printed structure in the comments.
Image credits: Mirror, Trendhunter