MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New research at the University of Minnesota could put technology in the tip of your finger.
Engineers have developed a new 3D printing process that can mold an electronic device onto a model hand. The “bionic skin” could give robots the sense of touch or, someday, humans the ability to have technology in their skin.
When it comes to 3D printing, the University of Minnesota is paving the way to the future.
“One of the things we’ve been interested in for a while is weather you can print 3D on your body, or for example, on your hand,” associate professor of mechanical engineering Michael Mcalpine said.
Engineering researchers have created a new 3D printing process for electronic, sensory devices that could give robots the ability to feel their environment, and could someday mold to human skin.
“You can imagine surgical tools — right now doctors rely on images when they do surgery, but if you could give the tools a sense of touch, a sense of touch feedback, it may make the surgery easier to accomplish,” Mcalpine said.
Dr. Mcalpine worked on the project for a year. So far, they’ve used a model hand as the test subject.
The 3D device is less than a millimeter in width, but has six layers of sensory fabric. It’s so light, it can be wiped off with a towel.
“Whenever you touch it, it gives an electronic signal,” Mcalpine said. “It’s so sensitive it can measure your pulse.”
Giving robots the sense of touch sounds like something out of a movie, but it’s real and only a matter of time.
“At some point it will be difficult to distinguish the humans from the robots with these new technologies,” Mcalpine said. “I don’t know, I think it’s kind of fun.”
The researchers have approval to test on human skin as the next step. They’ll be looking for volunteers to test the device on.