The number of artificial prosthetic replacement parts available for the human body is really quite impressive. From prosthetic eyes to artificial hips and knees, there are very few parts of the human body that can’t be swapped out with something that works at least as well as the original, especially given that the OEM part was probably in pretty tough shape in the first place.
But the heart has always been a weak spot in humans, in part because of the fact that it never gets to rest, and in part because all things considered, we modern humans don’t take really good care of it. And when the heart breaks down past the point where medicine or surgery can help, we’re left with far fewer alternatives than someone with a bum knee would face. The fact is that the best we can currently hope for is a mechanical heart that lets a patient live long enough to find a donor heart. But even then, tragedy must necessarily attend, and someone young and healthy must die so that someone else may live.
A permanent implantable artificial heart has long been a goal of medicine, and if recent developments in materials science and electrical engineering have anything to say about it, such a device may soon become a reality. Heart replacements may someday be as simple as hip replacements, but getting to that point requires understanding the history of mechanical hearts, and why it’s not just as simple as building a pump.
The leading cause of xenotransplant rejection is a sugar called alpha-gal. This sugar appears on the cell surfaces of all non-primate mammals. Alpha-gal is problematic for other reasons, too: a condition called alpha-gal syndrome usually begins when a Lone Star tick bites a person and transmits alpha-gal cells from the blood of animals they have bitten. From that point on, the person will experience an allergic reaction when eating red meat such as beef, pork, and lamb.
Fair warning for the squeamish: some versions of [Will Cogley]’s animatronic heart are realistic enough that you might not want to watch the video below. That’d be a shame though, because he really put a lot of effort into the build, and the results have a lot to teach about mimicking the movements of living things.
As for why one would need an animatronic heart, we’re not sure. [Will] mentions no specific use case for it, although we can think of a few. With the Day of Compulsory Romance fast approaching, the fabric-wrapped version would make a great gift for the one who stole your heart, while the silicone-enrobed one could be used as a movie prop or an awesome prank. Whatever the reason, [Will]’s build is a case study in incremental development. He started with a design using a single continuous-rotation servo, which powered four 3D-printed paddles from a common crank. The four paddles somewhat mimicked the movements of the four chambers of the heart, but the effect wasn’t quite convincing. The next design used two servos and complex parallelogram linkages to expand each side of the heart in turn. It was closer, but still not quite right.
After carefully watching footage of a beating heart, [Will] decided that his mechanism needed to imitate the rapid systolic contraction and slow diastolic expansion characteristic of a real heart. To achieve this, his final design has three servos plus an Arduino for motion control. Slipped into a detailed silicone jacket, the look is very realistic. Check out the video below if you dare.
We’ve seen plenty of animatronic body parts before, from eyes to hands to entire faces. This might be the first time we’ve seen an animatronic version of an internal organ, though.
Yes, [Heliox] has built a Valentine’s day project, and the presentation is top notch as always. A heart is 3D printed in white filament, with two chambers separated by a thick wall. Each chamber features five NeoPixel LEDs, controlled by an ESP8266 in the base. The color of each chamber can be controlled through the Blynk smartphone app, allowing you to choose the exact colors that best represent your relationship.
The 3D printed heart does a good job of diffusing the LEDs, with the device showing a rich and consistent glow without any unattractive hotspots. It’s a fun holiday build, and if you’re quick, you might just have time to print one yourself if you start right away.
The heart of the build (pun intended) is a lens assembly salvaged from a CD player, which uses a coil and permanent magnet to move the lens in order to read across a disc. In this case, the coil is instead fed pulses from an astable multivibrator circuit built with a hacker favourite, the 555 timer IC. It’s all assembled on a breadboard, which is a great way to build such projects that rely on experimentation through the swapping of component values.
We haven’t seen too many projects using optical drive lens assemblies, but we’re sure there must be other applications. If you end up using one to agitate biological samples or build an awesome laser projector, be sure to hit up the tips line. Video after the break.
Our morning routine could be appended to something like “breakfast, stretching, sit on a medical examiner, shower, then commute.” If we are speaking seriously, we don’t always get to our morning stretches, but a quick medical exam could be on the morning agenda. We would wager that a portion of our readers are poised for that exam as they read this article. The examiner could come in the form of a toilet seat. This IoT throne is the next device you didn’t know you needed because it can take measurements to detect signs of heart failure every time you take a load off.
Tracking heart failure is not just one test, it is a buttload of tests. Continuous monitoring is difficult although tools exist for each test. It is unreasonable to expect all the at-risk people to sit at a blood pressure machine, inside a ballistocardiograph, with an oximeter on their fingers three times per day. Getting people to browse Hackaday on their phones after lunch is less of a struggle. When the robots overthrow us, this will definitely be held against us.
We are not sure if this particular hardware will be open-source, probably not, but there is a lesson here about putting sensors where people will use them. Despite the low rank on the glamorous scale, from a UX point of view, it is ingenious. How can we flush out our own projects to make them usable? After all, if you build a badass morning alarm, but it tries to kill you, it will need some work and if you make a gorgeous clock with the numbers all messed up…okay, we dig that particular one for different reasons.
January has drawn to a close, and for many of you that means: “Oh no! Less than two weeks’ time until Valentine’s day.” But for us here at Hackaday, it means heart-themed blinky projects. Hooray!
[Dmitry Grinberg] has weighed in with his version of the classic heart-shaped LED ring. It’s hard to beat the BOM on this one: just a microcontroller, five resistors, and twenty LEDs. The rest is code, and optionally putting the name of your beloved into the copper layer. Everything is there for you to download.