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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CHICAGO — The surgeon working inside J.C. Bizzle's chest perched at an egg-shaped console a few yards from the operating table. Without laying hands on his patient, he bypassed two clogged arteries supplying Bizzle's heart.
The University of Chicago's Sudhir Srivastava performed the surgery without a big incision, without splitting Bizzle's breastbone and without stopping his heart. The spider-like arms of a robot did most of the work.

Bizzle, 79, a retired crane operator, was discharged April 5, just three days after a double bypass that typically would land a patient in the hospital for a week or more. "I had very little pain," Bizzle says. "Before summer's end, I'm expecting to be out playing golf."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A new prosthetic hand is being tested at the Orthopedic University Hospital in Heidelberg / Grip function almost like a natural hand

It can hold a credit card, use a keyboard with the index finger, and lift a bag weighing up to 20 kg - the world's first commercially available pros-thetic hand that can move each finger separately and has an astounding range of grip configurations. For the first time worldwide a patient at the Orthopedic University Hospital in Heidelberg has tested both the "i-LIMB" hand in comparison with another innovative prosthesis, the so called "Flu-idhand". Eighteen-year-old Sören Wolf, who was born with only one hand, is enthusiastic about its capabilities.

The new prosthetic hand developed and distributed by the Scottish com-pany "Touch Bionics" certainly has advantages over previous models. For example, a comparable standard product from another manufacturer al-lows only a pinch grip using thumb, index, and middle finger, and not a grip using all five fingers. This does not allow a full-wrap grip of an object.

Myoelectric signals from the stump of the arm control the prosthesis

Prototype of the 'Fluidhand' of the Research Center in Karlsruhe. - Source: Orthopedic University Hospital in Heidelberg
Complex electronics and five motors contained in the fingers enable every digit of the i-LIMB to be powered individually. A passive positioning of the thumb enables various grip configurations to be activated. The myoelectric signals from the stump control the prosthetic hand; muscle signals are picked up by electrodes on the skin and transferred to the control electron-ics in the prosthetic hand. Batteries provide the necessary power.

The "Fluidhand" from Karlsruhe, thus far developed only as a prototype that is also being tested in the Orthopedic University Hospital in Heidel-berg, is based on a somewhat different principle. Unlike its predecessors, the new hand can close around objects, even those with irregular surfaces. A large contact surface and soft, passive form elements greatly reduce the gripping power required to hold onto such an object. The hand also feels softer, more elastic, and more natural than conventional hard prosthetic devices.

"Fluidhand" prosthetic device offers better finishing and better grip function

The flexible drives are located directly in the movable finger joints and operate on the biological principle of the spider leg - to flex the joints, elastic chambers are pumped up by miniature hydraulics. In this way, in-dex finger, middle finger and thumb can be moved independently. The prosthetic hand gives the stump feedback, enabling the amputee to sense the strength of the grip.

Thus far, Sören has been the only patient in Heidelberg who has tested both models. "This experience is very important for us," says Simon Steffen, Director of the Department of Upper Extremities at the Orthopedic University Hospital in Heidelberg. The two new models were the best of those tested, with a slight advantage for Fluidhand because of its better finishing, the programmed grip configurations, power feedback, and the more easily adjustable controls. However, this prosthetic device is not in serial production. "First the developers have to find a company to produce it," says Alfons Fuchs, Director of Orthopedics Engineering at the Orthope-dic University Hospital in Heidelberg, as the costs of manufacturing it are comparatively high. However it is possible to produce an individual model. Thus far, only one patient in the world has received a Fluidhand for every-day use. A second patient will soon be fitted with this innovative prosthe-sis in Heidelberg.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by the Universitäts

Monday, April 14, 2008

Computerworld > Open source 3D printer copies itself

Computerworld > Open source 3D printer copies itself: "Based in the Waitakeres, in West Auckland, software developer and artist Vik Olliver is part of a team developing an open-source, self-copying 3D printer. The RepRap (Replicating Rapid-prototyper) printer can replicate and update itself. It can print its own parts, including updates, says Olliver, who is one of the core members of the RepRap team.
The 3D printer works by building components up in layers of plastic, mainly polylactic acid (PLA), which is a bio-degradable polymer made from lactic acid. The technology already exists, but commercial machines are very expensive. They also can’t copy themselves, and they can’t be manipulated by users, says Olliver.

RepRap has a different idea. The team, which is spread over New Zealand, the UK and the US, develops and gives away the designs for its much cheaper machine, which also has self-copying capabilities. It wants to make the machine available to anybody — including small communities in the developing world, as well as people in the developed world, says Olliver.

Accordingly, the RepRap machine is distributed, at no cost, under the GNU (General Public Licence)."

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eureka, California, United States
As Popeye once said,"I ams what I am." But then again maybe I'm not