3D Printing Used to Make $350 Prosthetic Arm for 6-Year-Old

A team from the University of Central Florida was able to use 3D printing to design an inexpensive limb for a boy born without an arm.
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A team from the University of Central Florida was able to use 3D printing to design an inexpensive limb for a boy born without an arm.
3d printed arm

Photo Credit: Reuters

Alex Pring was born without an arm and doctors told his family that a prosthetic would cost them $40,000. A team from the University of Central Florida headed by graduate student Albert Manero were able to give Pring, 6, a new arm for just $350.

"I feel good," Pring told reporters after trying his new arm for the first time. "I feel everything good, even my robot arm. It's not even heavy."

Manero felt inspired to help the family after reading about their story online. Because Pring was born without his fourth limb, the family's insurance company would not cover the costs of a prosthetic. For kids, this price is even higher because of prosthetics constantly need to be replaced to fit their growing bodies. Then, Manero heard a story on the radio about a man in South Africa who used 3D printing to make a new hand. 

"I was really inspired," he said. "When I got back, I talked to my colleagues and friends and said, 'We can do this.'"

The arm itself is activated by the electromyography muscle energy in the bicep. 3D printer maker Stratsays donated some of the supplies.

"My mother taught us that we’re supposed to help change the world," Manero said. "We’re supposed to help make it better. That's why we did it. The look on Alex’s face when he used it for the first time was priceless."

Pring got used to the feel of his new arm pretty quickly.

"The first thing he did when he could actually control it a little bit was hug his mother," Manero said. "He said it was their first real hug. There wasn't a dry eye in the room."

Thanks to the 3D printing technology, it will cost just $20 to replace the hand and less than $50 to replace the forearm when Pring outgrows his current prosthetic.

Manero has also put the design plans online, so that others can download them for free for their own use, and possibly also improve them.

"I have no doubt that the international community will try to move this technology forward and lower the cost," he said.