Video: 3D printed exoskeletons hint at a DIY future

Posted by Shane McGlaun

The Pentagon has conducted an enormous amount of research over the years to develop exoskeleton suits that can be used to help soldiers carry weapons and gear.

Of course, there are also uses for civilian exoskeleton systems, such as those that can be designed to  help individuals with disabilities.

One of the first exoskeletons designed for civilian use doesn't include heavy and expensive battery packs or servos and electricity. Rather, this exoskeleton is 3D printed and was create to help a toddler move her arms.

This exoskeleton was printed by engineers at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Philadelphia for a two-year-old girl named Emma Lavalle. The toddler was born with a condition called arthrogryposis that weakened her joints and muscles - preventing her from lifting her arms.

The 3D printed exoskeleton is light enough for Emma to carry, while also providing sufficient augmented strength. The suit boasts a customizable design, so it can be upgraded with new 3D printed parts as the child grows.

The above-mentioned exoskeleton coukd provide a preview of the DIY technology the military may employ in the future, allowing field commanders to print prosthetic limbs, syringes and even spare machine parts.

"It’s almost very much like Iron Man has different suits for different occasions,” former Air Force nurse Jesse Waites says. "You would be able to print yourself out some kind of specialized body armor for the rest of the team in the unit; certainly advantageous."