Saturday, November 24, 2012

Convergence: "This 3D-Printed Exoskeleton Could One Day Turn You Into a Cyborg"

A couple technologies coming together.
From Wired's DangerRoom:
For years, the military has worked on exoskeletons to help turn soldiers into heavy-lifting cyborgs. Now with the first civilian exoskeleton manufactured using a 3-D printer, the budding robosuit industry may someday get a little more DIY. If the military gets in on the trend, it means that soldiers could one day make their own combat exoskeletons using desktop computers.

The 3D-printed exoskeleton (seen above) is not exactly a super-suit — it’s designed for a toddler and is about as sophisticated as a swing-arm desk lamp — and human-assisted limbs are not new. But like other tools that once required complex manufacturing, there’s now another device you can imagine printing yourself.

Engineers at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Philadelphia used a 3-D printer to make a lightweight plastic exoskeleton for a 2-year-old girl named Emma Lavalle, who was born with a rare condition called arthrogryposis. Her condition — which weakened her muscles and joints — prevented Lavalle from lifting her arms. She couldn’t feed herself, and was too weak to lift a toy.

A video from 3-D printing company Stratasys, though partly an advertisement, is stunning. Lavalle, who was too small to be fitted with a conventional metal exoskeleton, was equipped with plastic “magic arms” attached to a suit fitted around her body. The suit was light enough for her to carry, and gave her enough augmented strength for her to lift her arms all on her own. The suit can also be customized. As Lavalle grows, the suit can be upgraded with newer printed parts....MORE
Danger Room has been following the use of 3-D  printing in the military quite closely. This is not your at-home Maker Bot cranking out plastic chess pieces:
...Battle Lab in a Box
At Camp Nathan Smith outside of Kandahar, there's a 20-foot cargo container loaded with a 3D printer, a computer-controlled machine for cutting metal, and a couple of Ph.D.s. It's one of three REF "expeditionary labs" placed around Afghanistan that can quickly design and prototype tools for troops on the ground right now.
The Nathan Smith team, on the screen above, printed up new bolt links for the M240 machine gun on their remote weapons system when the old ones broke....MORE
Pentagon’s Plans For 3-D Printers: Mobile Labs, Bomb Sniffers and Prototype Limbs