We recently chatted with 19-year-old engineer Erik Finman, the world’s youngest bitcoin millionaire, about the fully functional and 3D printed Dr. Octopus exoskeleton he created for a 10-year-old Marvel fanatic who struggles with a condition called hypermobility.
At one point or another, many of us have daydreamed about what it would be like to suddenly become a millionaire. How would our lives be different? What would we do with all of the free time and expendable cash? For those of us who haven’t hit that million dollar mark yet, we can at least live vicariously through Erik Finman, a 19-year-old millionaire from small town Idaho who made his fortune investing in Bitcoin back in May 2011.
After striking an agreement with his parents that he could skip out on college if he made a million bucks before his 18th birthday, the then-12-year-old entrepreneur used a $1,000 gift from his grandmother to get his start in the cryptocurrency market. With over 400 bitcoins in his possession, Finman currently has a bitcoin value of nearly three million (the current price of bitcoin at the time of this writing is $6,755). How’d he learn about this groundbreaking technology so early on? Believe it or not, his initial discovery of bitcoin took place at an anti-Wall Street protest that his brother brought him to.
“I heard about Bitcoin when I was actually at this protest that I was brought to when I was very young, and it was kind of an anti-Wall Street protest and all of that. One of the people there told me about Bitcoin. It was take down the man and all that stuff and power back to the people and all of that. And that’s how I got into it really early on because I was brought up going to these protests, so I was kind of born into that,” Finman explains about his past.
Nowadays, Finman is an engineer who is residing in Los Angeles, and he’s working on some pretty impressive things, including an ongoing collaboration with NASA to launch a satellite through the ELaNa project. But the wealthy high school dropout has also become a Tony Stark of sorts, recently creating a 3D printed Dr. Octopus exoskeleton for 10-year-old Aristou Meehand, the son of a family friend who has a joint condition called hypermobility, which is a condition of the joints in which range of motion is greater than normal.
After a few months of work, Finman and his team had transformed the young Marvel fanatic into the famous mad scientist widely known as one of the most formidable villains from the Spiderman universe.
Using 3D printing technology, microcontrollers, coffee cups and other components, Finman and his “ragtag team of engineers” set out to build a wearable suit with four functional tentacles. After Aristou came up with the initial concept himself, the team set out to develop the custom-made Dr. Octopus to help the 10-year-old feel with his hypermobility condition and make him the star of every cosplay event.
“His son is a huge comic book fan saying if he had his own real-life Doctor Octopus, then those could kind of solve his problems. But then it normally costs tens of millions of dollars to create a proper prosthetic. But we didn’t want to have to spend millions of dollars and then too, we wanted to help him the best that we could. So, that’s why we looked at 3-D printing and did this whole Doctor Octopus thing,” Finman says.
When we spoke with Finman over the phone, he was on his family’s Idaho farm petting a baby llama, which apparently caused its protective mother llama to charge at him in the midst of our conversation. Nevertheless, the savvy bitcoin millionaire found some time to share details about his early investments, the process of building this functional Dr. Octopus exoskeleton for Aristou, as well as advice for young likeminded individuals who also want to stray from societal norms.
Finman and his Justice League-like team of engineers designed and manufactured this functional Dr. Octopus over a period of six months. The 19-year-old engineer had always been intrigued by the prospect of 3D printing, but this was the first substantial project he had used the technology for.
“I’ve been kind of experimenting with 3-D printing for a long, long time, so I think this was the first time that we really did a serious, serious project with it. But I remember I had this kind of humanoid robot that I built a while back, and then I completely 3-D printed most of that. So, I did have experience, but it think this was the first big one,” Finman says.
After building his own 3D printer from scratch, the team started producing various components for the suit from plastic. In order to strengthen the parts, Finman and the engineering crew applied resin and–in some areas–carbon fiber to improve the bond of the 3D printed surfaces.
“It was a 3-D printer that we actually built ourselves, so it was very much a ‘Finman‘ 3-D printer,” he says.
Although Finman spearheaded the project, he couldn’t do everything on his own. He enlisted the help of engineers and other like-minded individuals, including a sculptor that ended up being his “right-hand guy” for the project. Once the assembly process was completed, it was finally time for Aristou to take his new tentacles-laden suit for a test drive. The young Marvel enthusiast was incredibly happy to be moving around in his one-of-a-kind 3D printed prosthetic, gleefully shouting “Whoa! This is so cool!”
“He was so shocked, and when he put it on, he just had this face of absolute elation. It was amazing,” Finman describes.
The excited youngster is able to move the tentacles independently or in pairs, activating them with simple hand movements or at the push of a button.
There’s no doubt that this project would have been much more difficult to accomplish without 3D printing, but the entire build process required impressive feats of ingenuity…
Striving to make the prosthetic look incredible but also function properly, Finman and his team refrained from implementing decorative parts that only offer aesthetic value.
While 3D printing plays a key role in the creation of the Dr. Octopus suit, there was a lot of other innovative ideas that went into this astonishing project. The suit is operated by a handful of different micro-controllers, the primary one being an Arduino Mega 2560, which controls the eight servo motors for the tentacles and four DC motors for the claws.
The team also integrated another smaller controller that controls the costume’s multi-color LEDs (which are added for aesthetic purposes, but also indicate that the servos are functioning properly). Powered by a 4-cell Lithium Motorcycle battery, they were able to keep the Dr. Octopus suit down to just 12.5 pounds in weight.
‘The whole suit was designed from scratch, we didn’t want to use off-the-shelf components outside of the electronics because of the size and weight considerations, instead of using universal brackets and mounts we designed every piece to perform multiple functions, for example the tentacle base piece each hold both servos, the entire cable-drive system, are hinged at the base to allow the user to move more freely and contain a bunch of tabs and eyelets to run cables and wires through,” Finman says.
Keeping the tentacles lightweight and compatible with the relatively small servo motors required some additional cleverness. Finman and his team decided to stack a series of coffee cups to represent the tentacles, each connected to the next with 3D printed linkages. He explains why utilizing these cups was so critical to the success of the final product:
“One of the things is we wanted to be able to bend and have the arm have all these degrees of rotation and these bending points. So, we could’ve had 50 expensive, super-heavy motors, but that wouldn’t have worked out. So, what we did is we got all these coffee cups and we got these three very slim carbon fiber wires so that you can pull the cups to go in a certain way. And in the back, there is one motor for each arm, so four motors to control the position of the strings so that way it pulls it a certain way. So, it’s actually really clever how we were able to do that super cheap and super lightweight because that was one of the biggest problems,” he explains about the decision to use coffee cups for the tentacles.”
For certain parts, such as the more integral brackets and bases, the team opted to use CNC machining instead of 3D printing technology. The Dr. Octopus suit is also equipped with a LCD screen in the back-center that initiates all of the systems one at a time. Once the prosthetic device is fully up-and-running, the display shares the value of the potentiometers and servos, helping the team to identify and fix any problems.
At the moment, the team states that Aristou’s new suit is a prototype only capable of lifting lightweight objects. However, they also believe that with further refinements and modifications, the suit will one day be able to lift up something as heavy as a car. On top of being one of the most advanced 3D printed prosthetic/cosplay items we’ve ever seen, the creator’s state that their concept has potential use in both the construction and medical industry.
Outside of this ambitious 3D printed project, Finman has been spending his free time working with NASA and a group of other bright teenagers to launch a satellite into space. Scheduled for lift-off in July 2018, there’s a pretty decent chance that 3D printing has also been playing a role in the construction of these CubeSat structures.
When asked if he had any advice for youngsters that also wish to find success without jumping through the hoops that college education presents, Finman stresses that the key is keeping an open-mind and being aware of all the possibilities and opportunities that life has to offer.
“What the most important thing that I realized, and this came from my parents, is that there are these existing structures where you have to go to school, you have to do this type of stuff, or you have to go to college, or you have to do it this way. Be wary that those aren’t the only paths,” Finman explains.
“I had one teacher who told me to drop out and work at McDonald’s because I’ll never amount to anything more in life,” he adds.
Of course, while the engineer continues tinkering with 3D printing and other projects, Finman remains openly passionate and bullish about the future of blockchain technology.
“It’s gonna be a whole new world. You’re gonna have decentralized internet. What will that mean? You’re gonna have decentralized social media. What will that mean? You’re gonna have decentralized utilities. You won’t have power companies. You’ll just have the internet’s energy. You’re not gonna have all these types of things, so it’s gonna be a whole new world, and in the next ten years, it’s going to look very, very interesting,” he concludes.
License: The text of "World’s Youngest Bitcoin Millionaire 3D Prints Functional Dr. Octopus Suit to Defeat Hypermobility" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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