I came across this great article and video about some Washington University, St. Louis students who created the concept for a 3D printed robotic prosthetic arm. The concept assignment came in their biomedical engineering design course. But they took the project one step further, going from their computer design to actually printing the arm. The total cost of the arm was $200, versus a standard prosthetic cost of $6000 or more.
The arm allows the user to pick up objects using a simple shoulder movement of an accelerometer to trigger the arm and hand to open and close. It is quite dramatic in its simplicity. The development illustrates two major trends shaping the future – the application of 3D printing to real-world problems, and the fact that young people more and more are side-stepping long development or apprenticeship times to go direct to impacting the world now.