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Dad 3D-printed arm prosthesis for his kid, now wants to share it with the world

Why it matters to you

A 3D-printed hydraulic arm for can help children across the globe. Here is how you can help.

As much as we love writing about crazy Nerf dart-firing air cannons and 3D-printed lightsabers, sometimes you come across a use of modern technology that makes you grateful to be living when we are.

The story of baby Sol Ryan is one example. Soon after being born, Sol had to have his lower left arm amputated due to complications. While he could have waited to have a prosthetic fitted on the freely available National Health Service in the U.K., this would have involved a three-year wait and, even then, it would be a nonfunctional prosthesis for cosmetic purposes.

Fortunately, Sol’s father Ben Ryan decided to pick up the slack. After plenty of research, Ben Ryan developed a design for a 3D-printable hydraulic prosthetic arm. Far from simply cosmetic, the arm — complete with movable thumb — is able to operate both manually and with assistance from a compressed air-hydraulic pump.

Now that his son has been given a new arm (seriously, how many dad brownie points do you get for that?), Ben Ryan wants to take his invention to the next level, to help even more kids around the world. To do this he has started up a company called Ambionics, which designs and 3D prints similar hydraulic prosthetics for youngsters.

“At any one stage, there are around 4,000 children in the United States alone who would benefit from one of these devices,” he told Digital Trends. “In developing countries, particularly in war-torn countries, those numbers can be much higher. We need to raise funds and investments so we can bring in the expertise to really help make a difference.”

The result is an Indiegogo campaign, which aims to raise 150,000 pounds ($185,000) over the next month. This money will go on continuing research and prototyping, patents, and Food and Drug Administration approval.

There are signed photos, T-shirts and hoodies available to backers in exchange for their pledges, but ultimately this is about something a lot bigger than just crowdfunding rewards: It’s about making a difference to people’s lives.