A hug to mom with both arms: 6-year-old boy gets $350 3D printed myoelectric arm
July 27, 2014
6-Year-Old Florida boy Alex Pring was born without an arm. One thing Alex Pring hated most about kindergarten was answering the same question again and again: “What happened to your arm?”
Alex is missing his right arm from just above his elbow. He accepts himself for the way he was made, but that was also the thing he doesn’t want to talk about.
But now, thanks to University of Central Florida aerospace engineering student Albert Manero, Alex has got the first 3D printed e-NABLE Myoelectric arm.
When Alex’s mother Alyson Pring heard about the e-NABLE group, an international group of volunteer engineers with the goal to help children without hands, she joined the community. She found Manero there.
Manero joined the group, in part, because when he was younger he had a friend who was missing fingers. “My mother taught us that we’re supposed to help change the world…We’re supposed to help make it better. That’s why we did it.” – Manero said.
Manero and the team spent seven weeks testing different ideas. In early July, they had a prototype, made on a 3D printer that runs off of servos and batteries that are actuated by the electromyography muscle energy on Alex’s bicep. And the arm was manufactured for less than $350. Stratasys, one of the biggest commercial 3-D printer makers in the nation, donated some of the supplies.
Manero invited Alex Pring and his family to visit the engineering college’s machine shop to test the prototype, then he invited Alex to come back for a second fitting to teach him how to use his muscles to open and close the hand and move the arm.
“He learned pretty fast,” Manero said. “The first thing he did when he could actually control it a little bit was hug his mother.”
And for the first time ever – Alex can give his mom and dad a hug with two arms.
“When he hugged me with two hands, he just didn’t let go,” said Alyson Pring. “I think it will help his confidence, so he can see future possibilities and make them seem all the more reachable for him.”
“We’ve already heard from another family who needs an arm,” Manero said. “We’re committed to helping who we can and I’ll be working with my team even when in Germany.
“I think 3-D printing is revolutionizing our world in many ways. I believe changing the world of prosthetics is very real. There’s no reason why this approach shouldn’t work on adults too.”
The team will upload the new designs and how to build the child-size arm and hand to the Internet so anyone with access to a 3-D printer can download the blueprints. The team said they will also look for methods to make a waterproof model in the future.