Ten-year-old Dolphin-loving girl gifted with special 3D printed prosthetic arm
Despite the many heartwarming stories that we’ve heard about how young and active kids are being fitted with low cost and customizable 3D printed prosthetic arms on a seemingly weekly basis, it is the stories that include appearances by the characters that inspired the custom prosthetics themselves that are among the most memorable.
Previously, we’ve seen how Robert Downey Jr. got suited into his Iron Man character Tony Stark to deliver a 3D printed ‘Iron Man’ prosthetic arm to a seven-year-old fan, how another seven-year-old was presented with a Star Wars-inspired prosthetic arm and was even honored into a Stormtrooper club, as well as how the popular music ensemble Blue Man Group invited one of their biggest young fans backstage at a concert to play with their instruments with his brand new prosthetic device … which was blue of course.
The latest 3D printed prosthetic feel-good story comes from the Clearwater Maritime Museum in Clearwater, Florida.
For ten-year-old Annika Emmert, an honor roll student from Southern California, live has been met with some challenges due to having been born without a part of her right arm. While she has worn multiple prosthetics over the years, they haven’t always been effective or comfortable to use.
"She worked very hard to use it and didn't tell me she had injured her tendon in her elbow as a result," says her mother, Karon Bryson-Emmert. "The weight of the material that was used, and the length beyond her own arm, put so much pressure on her elbow and what we refer to as her wrist."
Once the student-led University of Central Florida nonprofit Limbitless Solutions caught wind of Emmert’s story, they knew that they could help with one of their low-cost customized 3D printed bionic limbs. After all, they had done a remarkable job previously with their Iron Man prosthetic that was presented by Robert Downey Jr. thanks to founder Albert Manero’s - a Fulbright Scholar studying for a doctorate in mechanical engineering - dedication to the mission.
However, rather than superheroes including Iron Man, Emmert’s interests lean more towards aquatic life and counts the movie 'Dolphin Tale' among her favorites. After a careful arrangement with Limbitless at the Clearwater Maritime Museum, Emmert was presented with her new 3D printed prosthetic arm - which measures roughly 14 inches (35 centimeters) in length and weighs less than 3 pounds - by none other than actor Cozi Zuehlsdorff, one of the stars of the ocean-themed movie.
"The prototypes we have been able to try and use were so much easier...lightweight, almost zero strain on the elbow when picking up items," said Bryson-Emmert . "The hand will actually hold a hair brush and allow her to brush her hair. Not to mention, hold onto the seat belt while buckling. No more holding the strap with her chin."
Printed using a Stratasys 3D printer, the hand is controlled via electrodes that are triggered by Emmert’s muscles. In keeping true to the “Dolphin Tale” ocean theme, the Limbitless designers even included ocean design elements - including the blue color and floral design accents - on the bionic arm.
In addition to being presented with her new arm, Emmert was also given a very special tour of the Clearwater Aquarium where she met the star of 'Dolphin Tale' - Winter the Dolphin - who also wears a prosthetic device (a tail) after having been tangled in a crab trap line at just three months old. The movie is a true story that is based on Winter's life.
Thanks to the low cost of 3D printing, both Emmert and Winter will both be able to have new custom prosthetics when the time arises.