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“Magic arms” 3D printed exoskeleton helps child in need

January 29, 2013

Here’s a heartwarming story.  A little girl named Emma Lavelle was born with a genetic condition that rendered her arms too weak to use.  For older sufferers of this disease, there are exoskeleton devices that strap to the arms and shoulders and provide mechanical assistance; but for a small child like Emma, such devices are too big and far too heavy to use.

But when two-year-old Emma’s mother approached the folks at the Center for Orthopedics Research and Development, they made a special, custom version of the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton, just for her.  They were able to make it light and affordable, because almost all the parts were made on a 3D printer.

The revised “magic arms” device works like a charm, enabling Emma to feed herself, play with objects, and hug her mother.  They’ve already had to print another one, as Emma has outgrown the first — and with 3D printing, that’s easy enough to do.

This device is not technically robotic; it uses elastic bands and clever linkages to provide the balancing forces that restore mobility.  But, the 3D printer itself is a sort of a robot, and, er… OK, fine, I just couldn’t resist sharing such a great story.  This is the sort of unexpected miracle that often comes from technological advancement, and I look forward to seeing more success stories like this as 3D printing gets better, cheaper, and more common.

See the full story with video on

From → Culture, News

One Comment
  1. Here’s a related story, on some recent homemade 3D printed prosthetics:

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