Does this mean we're close to having cyborgs?
Researchers at the University of Minnesota used 3D printing to make stretchable electronic sensory devices on a human hand model. The 3D printer has four nozzles with different "inks" that make up the device.
This includes a silicone base, a conducting ink (a mix of silver and silicone) that makes up the electrodes, a pressure sensor also made up of the silver-silicone mix and a sacrificial ink to hold the top electrode when it sets. Compared to the conventional 3D printing that uses liquid plastic (which is by the way not good for the skin), these "inks" can set at room temperature.
While the sensors has been mainly created to give robots the ability to feel touch and help them interact with their environment much easier, Michael McAlpine, one of the authors of the study
and a mechanical engineering associate professor at the University of Minnesota, said "this stretchable electronic fabric we developed has many [other] practical uses."
For instance, “putting this type of ‘bionic skin’ on surgical robots would give surgeons the ability to actually feel during minimally invasive surgeries, which would make surgery easier instead of just using cameras like they do now.” With this, perhaps having, say, a colonoscopy
would be much more "comfortable" next time.
“This is a completely new way to approach 3D printing of electronics. We have a multi-functional printer that can print several layers to make these flexible sensory devices. This could take us into so many directions from health monitoring to energy harvesting to chemical sensing,” McAlpine said. “The possibilities for the future are endless.”
I just can't stop thinking of how it'll soon bestow the future touch-sensitive robots sensual and sexual capabilities...