Seven-Year-Old Gets a 3D Printed Prosthetic Stormtrooper Arm From the 501st Legion and e-NABLE
*Sniff* What? There's just something in my eye, OK?
Prosthetic limbs are usually too expensive to be practical for most children (one in 1,500) born with partially formed arms. 3D printing has the capacity to not only lower the cost significantly and put prosthetics in reach for people in need, but also raise kids’ spirits with some really personalized designs, like this stormtrooper arm from the 501st Legion and e-NABLE.
Jon Schull, a researcher at the Rochester Institute of Technology, founded e-NABLE after attending an engineering conference where professors talked about senior projects for engineering students to build custom prosthetics for people in need. After seeing how much easier it was to create and reproduce such personally tailored designs with 3D printing, he found willing volunteers with their own 3D printers and got e-NABLE going.
The volunteer organization has given out over 400 plastic limbs so far, including hands with moving fingers that are operated by bending the wrist, which can make them dexterous enough to pick up and use eating utensils. The cost-effective 3D printing method is especially great for kids, who quickly grow out of prosthetics. e-NABLE grows every day, too, and Schull told Popular Science, “It’s a big world, and there’s an amazingly large number of people who could really use an artificial limb. We’ve delivered only a very small drop in a very large bucket, but we want to scale that up.”