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Smithsonian’s Bionic Man Showcases 3D-Printed Body Parts

Smithsonian's Bionic Man Showcases 3D-Printed Body PartsWe’ve talked about 3D printing body parts before, but until today, hadn’t really seen those body parts get much use.

But a few days ago, the Smithsonian unveiled something new that completely amazed us: their bionic man.

The bionic man, humorously named “Frank,” is the most complete use of bioprinting we’ve seen yet. Frank is a “6-foot-tall robot built entirely from bionic body parts and implantable synthetic organs, complete with a functioning circulatory system,” and he’ll be on display at the Smithsonian Museum until December.

Frank’s list of components is impressive, to say the least. He has:

  • An artificial heart
  • A system that turns video into electrical impulses the brain can “see”
  • A computer program that turns text into speech and allows him to carry on conversation
  • A cochlear implant
  • A 3D-printed synthetic windpipe
  • An artificial lung
  • An exoskeleton that helps Frank “walk”
  • 3D-printed skull implants

Not everything on Frank the bionic man is 3D-printed, but those parts that are are finally being put to use. The Smithsonian designed and built Frank as a showcase of technology, which hopefully will carry over to human subjects, allowing them to receive artificial hearts and other 3D-printed body part replacements.

Frank is a prototype, but he’s also a sign of how far 3D printing and additive manufacturing has come. Even recently, scientists found a new method to 3D print a mini pancreas, which could be useful for diabetes. All across the industry (and the globe), new technology like that we see in Frank is starting to take over.

Although part of us is slightly terrified at the thought of humanlike robots being mass-produced (we’ve all seen I, Robot), we’re also very excited to see this new manufacturing technology at work. We’re awaiting the day when all of Frank’s parts (not just some) are 3D printed, but until then, a cool bionic man like this should definitely hold us over.

Photo credit: Bloomberg via SCMP

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