Over the past week I’ve seen countless articles on the Titan Arm, an “untethered, powered, upper body exoskeleton for use in the fields of rehabilitation and therapeutic application, as well as occupations requiring augmented strength” from a team out of the University of Pennsylvania. It won the James Dyson 2013 award for its innovation, practicality, and use of modern manufacturing technologies. James Dyson stated it thusly, “Titan Arm is obviously an ingenious design, but the team’s use of modern, rapid – and relatively inexpensive – manufacturing techniques makes the project even more compelling.” Have a look:
This wireless exoskeleton provides an individual with an additional 40 pounds of lift. Most of the functional parts were machined, but the ergonomics and prototyping was achieved with 3D printing. Such a device has so much potential for so many people. Warehouse workers, healthcare aids, and anyone that does a lot of heavy lifting could definitely benefit from having a couple Titan Arms. Additionally, those that have been injured and are going through physical therapy could be assisted in their rehabilitation. Last but certainly not least, the permanently disabled could actually have some upper body strength and mobility. But the Titan Arm wasn’t the only 3D printed project related to arms that won a James Dyson award in 2013. Both of the runner ups fall into that category. Check out Handie:
The Japanese Handie isn’t the first 3D printed prosthetic and it won’t be the last. But it does go a step further by reacting to brain signals through the use of myoelectric sensors. This printed prosthetic incorporates a smartphone to process and convert signals detected on the skin into motion of the fingers. It can already do what the Titan Arm plans to do, as it’s currently controlled by a joystick and not muscle signals. And look at that grip! That’s some advanced grasping going on. So what about the other runner up? Surely you remember the Cortex:
It’s a 3D printed brace intended to replace plaster casts. We already covered it, so read more there. But it’s pretty cool that James Dyson recognizes the impact that 3D printing will have on the future.