i.Materialize recently announced the (somewhat wordy) Machine Man Human Augmentation Design Challenge, to be judged by (among others) our friend Hod Lipson of Cornell’s Fab@Home. The challenge: Designers will submit proposals for 3-D printed titanium implants or augmentations to the human body. They can be either functional, like traditional prostheses, or purely aesthetic, like, say, an earring that provides better cellphone reception by turning the body into an antenna. Basically, this is the first step to us all becoming X-Men.
The contest rules are fairly simple, and also fairly modest–no titanium claws quite yet. The proposal has to be in a typical 3-D printing format like STL or OBJ, the final object cannot be larger than 4 cubic centimeters or have walls thinner than 0.4 mm, and it must be fully functional (or awesome-looking) directly out of the printer. That means no added electronics or parts can be added afterwards–this thing has to be printed and done, just like that.
It’s an awfully open-ended contest, with tons of possible ways to interpret it. i.Materialize imagines the aforementioned earring-as-antenna, but also chopsticks that attach to fingers, printed titanium teeth (which is where Lil Wayne comes in), or some kind of implant that holds your nose open so you can breathe easier without one of those adhesive things football players wear. The full contest rules are here–we’re looking forward to some great ideas, especially after seeing the future of 3-D printing.