3D Printer Creates Prosthetics for Children
Imagine not having the strength to feed yourself, play with your toys or even hug your mom. For years, this was Emma Lavelle's reality. Until her doctors found the Stratasys 3D printer right here in Minnesota.
"Emma's story is by far the most exciting thing I've ever been a part of," said Stratasys engineer Noah Zehringer.
Emma was born with a condition that keeps her from developing the strength to lift her arms on her own.
The only prosthetic that could have helped was made of heavy metal and manufactured in adult sizes. So Emma's doctors teamed up with Stratasys engineers like Zehringer to design a lighter, smaller, plastic version of the exoskeleton designed just for Emma.
"We're printing layer by layer a three-dimensional part," said Zehringer of the printing machines.
The 3D printing technology costs a fraction of what manufacturing a mold would cost and new parts can be individually printed to fit Emma as she grows.
"We can start putting these in the field now," said Zehringer. "Emma was the perfect test case. She's smaller and needed something custom."
"Here is a mother whose child is born with this condition, she has no idea what her daughters life is going to be like," said Eric Jenson.
Jenson is about to launch the non-profit 'Magic Arms for the World' so other kids like Emma can also have access to the WREX.
"You have this great solution. This Magic Arms - the WREX - and all these kids who need it around the world and there's no way they can do it themselves," he said.
"You're really only limited by your imagination so these machines are truly enablers," said Zehringer.
Thanks to her Magic Arms, Emma is eating on her own. She can use the toys in her play kitchen by herself. And the best part, she can finally give her mom a hug.
The WREX is made out of the same plastic you'll find in Legos so it is very durable but still people friendly and the possibilities are endless.
Stratasys is also involved in creating parts for NASA to use in the next Mars rover.
The WREX exoskeleton is nominated for the 'Designs of the Year 2013' awards by London's Design Museum.
For more information or to donate to Jenson's non-profit, visit www.magicarms.org