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The Boy Who Made His Own 3D Printed Hand

Each year approximately one in every 2000 children is born without part of their hands or arms. There are others who lose them due to medical complications or accidents. Many outgrown and badly fitting prosthetics are being replaced with 3D Printing projects that are customed fitted and more affordable.

Nine-year-old Aidan Robinson has chosen to do things himself. Having his lower left arm missing since birth he has known many traditional prosthetic arms during his nine years. Early in his life he wore a doll-like arm that allowed his brain to develop motor skills on both sides of his body. Then there was a myoelectric prosthetic that relied on electrodes that responded to muscle movements. But these are expensive and run anywhere between $5500 and $15,000. These were unable to let him do more introcate things and are nick named 'cookie crushers' because they would unintentionally crush things.

Last July Aidan was a part of a one week camp called the Superhero Cyborg Camp. It is run by a non-profit organization based in San Francisco named KIDmob, a workshop for children who have lost their upper limbs. During this week Aidan and nine other students learned the basics of designing prosthetics, unique with superpowers.

With various parts of metal components, parts of old toys, 3D printed parts and the help of experienced prothetists and volunteers Aidan assembled his unique prosthetic. Although this is not as flashy as a regular medical prosthetic it can be fitted with the important things a kid his age will need such as a spoon or fork, a giant Lego hand or even a Wii remote.

KIDmob is trying to pass on to these children the experience, ingenuity, and 21st century skills if you will, that kids such as Aidan will need. "Part of our intent (behind the Superhero Cyborg Camp) was to invite them to consider the possibility that they're not just limited to the prosthetic set on the market. As the end user of the prosthetics, if they have an idea that's not on the market, they could make it themselves," Kate Ganim, KIDmob co-founder explains.

At weeks end Aidan had devised a decorative device and a designer at Autodesk, Coby Unger, found his design so impressive that he offered to make a working version of the arm. "I thought it was a unique perspective on prosthetics I hadn't seen before. And it had great potential for changing what prosthetic means and what it could mean," Unger said.

Unger began streamlining the basic cutlery and Wii remote concepts and even an attachment that lets Aidan play violin in his school's orchestra. It looks as if Aidan may own the most multifunctional 3D printed prosthetic in the world.

This type of outcome is exactly what 3D printing has to offer and shows that people of all ages can create innovative and practical implements.


Eve Sherrill York

About Eve Sherrill York

Have written online for several years on many subjects. Also use the username 'celticeagle'.

Eve Sherrill York

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