Bionic arms and legs have come a long way in recent years, and can only continue to go further as technology progresses.
According to 3Ders, the technology behind the development of bionic limbs is advancing – thanks in part to 3D printing.
Dr. Kee Moon and Jeremiah Cox of Mechanical Engineering San Diego State University are currently developing 3D printed physical therapy devices that allow the body to move same way that it used to before an accident. Instead of rigidly controlling the body, 3Ders says, these devices jumpstart the body and nudge it into more natural movement patterns. The device also helps patients with muscular disorders or diseases.
As it currently stands, machining a bionic leg is a difficult, time-consuming process. Dr. Moon uses 3D printing to recreate the intricate design of the human limb. 3D printed components, such as brackets, are lightweight, affordable, and customizable for each patient.
3D printing speeds up prototyping so that the legs will be available for patients sooner. 3D printing allows the components to be created in 3D CAD, instead of requiring machining by hand.
The 3D printed device will enable doctors to move quickly from the fitting process to the delivery of the device.
In the future, doctors hope that the bionic leg will be able to interact with brain functions, allowing it to tap into former muscle memory. This would allow patients to regain their natural movements.