National Institutes of Health

3D Printed Bionic Skin Will Help Humans and Machines Merge

Article Image

A new 3D printed “Bionic Skin” developed at the University of Minnesota, is a stretchable, electronic fabric, which would allow robots to gain tactile sensation. The results of this study were published in the journal, Advanced Materials. Scientists have been dreaming of artificial skin since the 1970’s. Thanks to funding by a division of the National Institutes of Health, we are much closer to making it a reality.

Michael McAlpine was the lead researcher on this study. He’s a mechanical engineering associate professor at the university. In 2013, while at Princeton, McApline gained international attention for 3D printing nano-materials to fashion a “bionic ear.” For this project, Prof. McAlpine enlisted graduate students Shuang-Zhuang Guo, Kaiyan Qiu, Fanben Meng, and Sung Hyun Park.

Amputee with natural looking robot arm.

This could change the calculus on options offered to amputees. Getty Images.

Dr. McAlpine and his team created a unique 3D printer unlike any in the world. The device has four nozzles, each with several different functions. To print on the skin, the surface is first carefully scanned for its contours and shape. The printer can follow any curvature. Then, once the surface area has been mapped out precisely, printing can begin. McApline and colleagues were able to print a pressure sensor on a mannequin’s hand.

The base of the “skin” is silicone which when distributed via nozzle, came out as a gel. This contains silver particles to help conduct electricity. A coiled sensor was then printed in the center. Following that, the piece was engulfed in more silicon layers. Above and below the sensor lay electrodes in the form of a conductive ink. At last, a final, temporary layer was printed to hold everything together, while it solidified. The whole thing was just 4-millimeters wide and took mere minutes to carry out. Once it dried, the last layer was washed away, revealing a…

Dog DNA study maps breeds across the world

dog breeds
With a new dataset, man digs into the genetic history of his best friend.

Mapping the relationships between different dog breeds is rough (get it?), but a team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health did just that using the DNA of 1,346 dogs from 161 breeds. Their analysis, which appears April 25 in Cell Reports, offers a lot to chew on.

Here are five key findings from the work:

Dogs were bred for specific jobs, and this shows in their genes.

As human lifestyles shifted from hunting and gathering to herding to agriculture and finally urbanization, humans bred dogs (Canis familiaris) accordingly. Then over the last 200 years, more and more breeds emerged within those categories. Humans crossed breeds to create hybrids based on appearance and temperament, and those hybrids eventually became new breeds.

DNA from hybrid dogs backs up historical records.

Genetic backtracking indicates that, for example, mixing between bulldogs and terriers traces back to Ireland…