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Devoted dad designs a 3D-printable arm for his son

J-P Mauro - published on 11/16/17

He intends to make them available for all amputee children at as little cost as possible.

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Ben Ryan’s son, Sol, lost his left arm shortly after his birth due to a blood clot. The amputation did nothing to steal Ben’s elation at becoming a father, but he did find it unacceptable when he was told that Sol would have to wait a year before being issued a prosthetic arm. The former psychology teacher immersed himself in research until he came up with a design that could be 3D-printed.

The design uses a small bulb of fluid that allows the wearer to bend the thumb by squeezing the bulb under their armpit. Sine the thumb is the only moving piece, the arm is able to support the weight of a toddler while they crawl, and it is sturdy enough to last through a temper tantrum.

While the prosthetic is by no means perfected, Ryan has already received requests for child-sized arms from 160 families. This flood of requests has led Ryan to start a company called Ambionics, which will begin a trial of his prosthetic arms with 20 families.

CNN explains how Ryan designed the arm:

Ryan uses an Xbox scanner to create digital scans of the residual limb, so that he can 3D print the socket. The families working with Ryan will send him scans that he will use to model and 3D print their prosthetics. Ryan’s beta trial began in October when he fitted his first prosthetic on another child in Wales Ryan says he can make a whole arm system for between $150 to $250-worth of materials and time. Added to that, he says it would take less than a week to model and print a new socket for a child if they outgrew or misplaced theirs, compared to a few months wait for an NHS prosthetic.

As wonderful as this project is, there are some obstacles for Ryan to keep in mind. In order to bring the arms to market, they would first have to be medically certified, a process which would inevitably increase the price tag. For that reason, Ryan is considering making the designs available on the popular 3D printing resource Enabling the Future (e-NABLE), which would make them free to all.

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