You can keep your crazy 3D-bioprinting-in-space stories, or your tales of how all our future meals will be 3D-printed directly onto our plates. There are few stories that get us as excited about the possibilities of additive manufacturing as the plight of Katelyn Vincik, a 5-year-old girl from Texas.
Katelyn was born without a fully formed left hand. Thanks to the wonders of 3D printing, Katelyn recently received a custom 3D-printed prosthesis (in pink!), courtesy of a 3D printer at a nearby library and some freely provided open source blueprints.
The so-called UnLimbited arm was designed by CAD design experts and colleagues Stephen Davies and Drew Murray, who live thousands of miles away in the U.K.
“The makers of Katelyn’s arm had contacted us to tell us her story, and we offered to give them any advice if they needed it,” Davies told Digital Trends. “We talk with many makers around the world and hear some truly amazing stories — also some incredibly sad. To date, our new arm has been viewed 400,000 times on Thingiverse, and we expect to see them start appearing soon by other makers. In the interim, we continue to build for our ever-expanding list of recipients here in the U.K., and continue to develop and improve our designs for the benefit of all.”
The actual arm for Katelyn was printed at the Harris County Public Library, and customized to her size specifications by a man named Patrick Ferrell and other volunteers. This was the first time the library had worked on a project like this — and the result was a roaring success.
“You have to remember that prosthetic arms can cost thousands of dollars, and children outgrow them fast,” Davies continued. “They can be heavy, uncomfortabl,e and make you a target for bullying. Some children have little or no options at all. Our arm costs around 30 British pounds [$40 U.S.] in materials to build, takes around 8 to 10 hours to print and — what we hear time and again — is the huge psychological effect they have on a child and their confidence. We make them in superhero colors, or with flowers on, even glow-in-the-dark arms. They suddenly go from being the kid picked on in the schoolyard to being the cool kid. Our arms don’t hide [kids’] disabilities — they are there to show them off and make them shine.”
Now if you’ll excuse us for a moment, there’s something in our eye. Must be all the dust around here!