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3D-Printed "Magic Arms"
August 3, 2012 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Two-year-old Emma wanted to play with blocks, but a condition called arthrogryposis meant she couldn't move her arms. So researchers at a Delaware hospital 3D printed a durable custom exoskeleton with the tiny, lightweight parts she needed.
posted by Foci for Analysis (24 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cannot stop smiling. Science is so incredibly awesome.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:09 AM on August 3, 2012


I think my eye has printed a 3D something.
posted by chavenet at 5:12 AM on August 3, 2012 [23 favorites]


We've had 3D printing for a number of years, I've always viewed it as a novelty. This gives the technology a reason for being... This will make you smile, but keep the kleenex handy too....
posted by HuronBob at 5:15 AM on August 3, 2012


Damn. How cool is that?
posted by octothorpe at 5:27 AM on August 3, 2012


a) I thought I saw LEGO in there.
b) So much for the theory that you can't hug a child with nuclear arms, as long as the child wants to hug you back.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:28 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Simple. Elegant. Perfect. This is what humans are capable of when they put their minds to it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:31 AM on August 3, 2012


What a beautiful and meaningful meeting of technology and the human spirit. Thank you for posting this, Foci for Analysis.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:34 AM on August 3, 2012


Sometimes I love living in the future.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:41 AM on August 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Suddenly I am at peace with my lack of moonbase or flying car.
posted by Mezentian at 5:49 AM on August 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


"Scientists use 3-D printer to give disabled girl working exoskeleton arms" is a real thing that can happen in 2012.

SO GREAT. But, man, if you think IP law is crazytimes now, wait until easy 3-D printing drops below the $200 price point.
posted by mhoye at 5:51 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just wait until you can print a working done for <US$200.
posted by Mezentian at 5:55 AM on August 3, 2012


I like this much better than the flying/crawling military robot inventions.
posted by mediareport at 6:04 AM on August 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thank you for posting this. I am moved, delighted and joyous all at once... if only for the wonders this portends.

(And the schlock too, but hey--half full, right?)
posted by kinnakeet at 6:04 AM on August 3, 2012


Thanks for the morning cry, Foci for Analysis. This is why I am an optimist, We can be a pretty amazing species when we put our hearts to it.
posted by djrock3k at 6:24 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, that cleaned out the old tear ducts.

Seriously, though, how do the arms work? It doesn't look like a powered scifi-y exoskeleton. Is it just springs/rubber bands, or do the frames hold her arms in a certain position that she couldn't achieve on her own?
posted by Palquito at 6:41 AM on August 3, 2012


It looks like she doesn't have the muscle strength necessary to lift her arms. The rubber bands pull enough to cancel out her arm's weight.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:46 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It looks like the device on which this is based, WREX, is a unpowered exoskeleton thingie that just stabilizes and supports your limbs. It's meant for wheelchairs, so heavy. The plastic version is light, portable and awesome. Likely the use of device is going to improve her brain development as well.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but mhoye is right that cool medical hacks like this are at risk from the patent system, as in the previously-mentioned speech therapy app that is literally silencing a little girl who otherwise would be able to speak.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:52 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


And Emma is a lefty! The moment where the researcher was talking about Emma's first sentence, and I heard the catch in his voice. That is where I cried.
posted by tulip-socks at 7:54 AM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it just springs/rubber bands, or do the frames hold her arms in a certain position that she couldn't achieve on her own?

I'm guessing that it basically provides "neutral buoyancy" to her arms, so that she doesn't have to use strength to lift them, but only to move them away from the default position, which requires much less force.
posted by CaseyB at 8:23 AM on August 3, 2012


This is pretty freaking awesome. Good for little Emma, and good for the technicians & doctors who figured out to build the thing!
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 9:06 AM on August 3, 2012


And this is how the Mecha pilots of the future get their start...
posted by Zed at 9:43 AM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is so rad.

I started tearing up ten seconds in but I managed to hold it together until her mom said, "She calls them her magic arms."
posted by mochapickle at 2:22 PM on August 3, 2012


cool medical hacks like this are at risk from the patent system, as in the previously-mentioned speech therapy app that is literally silencing a little girl who otherwise would be able to speak.

A couple of updates to that story:

The Silencing of Maya

Irreparable Harm
posted by homunculus at 11:49 PM on August 3, 2012


I checked out Maya's page and learnt that Speak for yourself is now available for Android<> :)

Maya's mom talks about
meeting the developers at a conference and links to the announcement.
Evidently it is still not available via the Apple store and the developers are still battling that issue. Unfortunatly Android devices are missing some of the hardware elements that Maya needs.
posted by Librarygeek at 12:03 PM on August 7, 2012


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