3-D Printer Brings “Magic Arms” to a Two-Year-Old

From AllThingsD:

I’m not usually a sucker for the warm and uplifting. But I’ll admit it: A recent viral YouTube video featuring a child’s inspiring story has got me all choked up.

Two-year-old Emma Lavelle was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (or AMC), a condition that stunts the development of her muscles and stiffens her joints. As a result, her capacity for movement has been severely limited, and she has spent much of her life undergoing surgeries and corrective treatments. One of the most promising treatments for those with AMC is the WREX device, a type of body cast that aids AMC patients in lifting their limbs with the help of elastic bands and artificial support joints.

Problem was, Emma was far too young and small for the typical size WREX devices. So two Wilmington, Del., researchers — Dr. Tariq Rahman and designer Whitney Sample — developed a scaled-down version of the cast that fit for Emma’s smaller frame.

The two took CAD blueprints from the existing WREX design and scaled them down to the size they would need to be to fit Emma. Unfortunately, the machinery they used to build past WREX devices couldn’t deal with the smaller-sized parts for Emma’s model.

So they got creative. Using a smaller 3-D printer that Rahman already had in his office, the researchers were able to print the smaller WREX parts from the scaled-down designs. Instead of metal, the 3-D printer fabricated the new parts out of ABS plastic, which proved sturdy enough to hold up to everyday use.

The result? Emma can now move her arms about freely and much more easily than ever before. She can play with toys, feed herself and even hug her parents without needing their help. In short, it changed her life.