Teenager receives Star Wars inspired, 3D printed prosthetic hand
Being born with a limb deficiency can be both physically and socially painful, particularly once you enter your teenage years. Prostheses are an option for many, but they can often be expensive, heavy or cumbersome. That is, until the advent of 3D printing. Joe Oxenbury, a 15-year-old from Stourbridge, England, has just received a 3D printed prosthetic hand that is not only functional, but was inspired by the one-and-only Darth Vader.
Joe was born six weeks premature with an upper limb deficiency, resulting in his left hand developing in the womb with no fingers. For most of his life, his parents remained hopeful that scientific breakthroughs would eventually be able to help their son. “When Joe was born, I thought some kind of technology would be able to help him,” said his father, Chris Oxenbury. “Now, 15 years on, we are there.”
Mr. Oxenbury came across the concept of 3D printed prosthetics back in September. He was browsing the web and came across an article about a three-year-old girl from Hawaii who has received a 3D printed hand. Inspired, he immediately contacted the organization responsible, a 3D printing charity based in the U.S., and within four months, his family’s dream came to life.
The hand was crafted by e-NABLE(whom we've previously covered here, here and here) a global, volunteer-based community dedicated to providing quality 3D printed prosthetics for those in need, with a focus on children with physical disabilities. James Holmes-Siedle was the volunteer artist in charge of Joe’s prosthetic, which was aesthetically inspired by the one and only Darth Vader. “I chose it deliberately as I was going for that kind of style and colour,” said Joe. “I was very happy when it arrived. It was better than I thought it would be.”
Joe with his father, Chris
e-Nable used custom measurements from Joe’s right hand in order to design the 3D model, and printed the final product within 20 hours. Thanks to the dedication of their volunteers, the hand cost only £30 to make, a fraction of the cost of some other prostheses.
Of course, the point of having a prosthetic is not just that it’s cool to look at. The true beauty of the device is that is both comfortable and functional, allowing Joe to do things he wasn’t capable of before. “Because it is mechanical and not electric at all, it is organic and it is all really functional,” explained Mr. Oxenbury. “The arm uses no strings and no electronics at all. The strings act as tendons would do. It’s like something off Star Wars.” Within minutes of receiving the hand, Joe was able to pick up oranges and bananas, he can also clench his fingers in a natural and intuitive way.
e-NABLE has several prosthetic designs on their website that children in need can choose from, such as the Raptor Hand or the Cyborg Beast. Although the attention-grabbing colors and shapes aren’t for everyone, children in particular can benefit from the fact that they are lightweight, inexpensive, and downright funky. What child hasn’t dreamed of being a cyborg superhero sent to fight-off bad guys?
So, whether you are a Star Wars fan or want something a little more subtle, the increasingly accessible and advanced capabilities of 3D printing mean that more and more of those in need are able to benefit and improve their quality of life. Or, as Darth might have said, ‘The force is strong with 3D printing.’