Speed Reads


Genius students use 3D printer to make an arm for young boy

Alex Pring was finally able to hug his mother for the first time at age 6, and it was a big deal. Alex was born missing most of his right arm, and hugging was something he couldn't do before getting a specialized prosthetic created by a 3D printer.

"When he hugged me with two hands, he just didn't let go," Alyson Pring told the Orlando Sentinel. She believes the arm will help her son "see future possibilities and make them seem all the more reachable."

It's difficult for prosthetics to be made for children because the parts have to be so small, and it's also rare for insurance to pay, since they have to be replaced as the child grows. Wanting to find help for her son, Pring turned to e-NABLE, a network comprised of volunteer students, engineers, professors, and occupational therapists with the goal of aiding children without hands.

Albert Manero, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at the University of Central Florida, quickly went to work with a team to create a bionic arm for Alex. It took seven weeks, and was fitted on Alex in early July. It cost less than $350 to make, and involved just a 3D printer, gears, and batteries. Alex uses several muscles to control the arm and hand, and "he learned pretty fast," Manero said.

The best part of this story? The prosthetic will help more than just Alex; the team uploaded the arm's blueprints onto the internet so anyone can download the documents and help a child in need. "My mother always taught us that we're supposed to help change the world," Manero said. "That's why we did it."