A trio of biomedical engineering students at the Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) managed to build a 13-year-old girl a robotic prosthetic arm using a 3-D printer. Incredibly, the robotic arm cost a meager $200 to make; normally a prosthetic would set you back a minimum of $6,000.
Kendall Gretsch, Henry Lather and Kranti Peddada produced the prosthetic arm for their engineering design course alongside associate professor of physical therapy Joseph Klaesner. At the request of the recipient, Sydney Kendall, the team produced the prosthetic out of pink plastic, and it looks pretty awesome.
Since the students had no prior experience in prosthetics, they received guidance from several medical practitioners including Charles A. Goldfarb and Lindley Wall, both orthopedic hand surgeons. “They brought their engineering expertise, and we shared our practical experience with prosthetics and the needs of children,” Goldfarb wrote in a blog.
Although Sydney was previously fitted with a prosthetic arm, she found she was very limited in what she could accomplish with it. By manipulating the device with shoulder movements, she was able to perform numerous tasks such as throwing a ball and moving a computer mouse. “It really showed us the great things you can accomplish when you bridge medicine and technology,” said Peddada in a press-release.
Unlike other recent devices, this prosthetic dons a motor and a working thumb. It’s also battery-powered and controlled with an accelerometer.
Fitting children with prosthetics is difficult because as they grow, the prosthetics need to be replaced with larger devices to accommodate their body changes. Since most prosthetics are very expensive, this is unaffordable for many. “With the 3-D printer, a prosthetic can be made much less expensive. The possibilities of what can be done to improve prosthetics using this technology is very exciting,” said Sydney’s mother, Beth Kendall in a press-release.
If you’d like to check out a demonstration of the first prototype device, watch this YouTube video below: