Editor's note: I'm deeply thankful to Emma and her mom for enthusiastically sharing their story, and to Tariq Rahman and Whitney Sample for the work they do every day.
When Emma was 2, she wanted to play with blocks. But a condition called arthrogryposis meant she couldn’t lift her arms with her own strength. Born able to move only her thumb, and having slowly learned to walk with the help of a walker, the smart little girl knew her arms should do more.
Researchers at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children had already helped many kids with Emma’s condition using a clever device called the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX). It’s a series of metal bars, hinges and resistance bands that reduce the force of gravity on the arms, similar to how the springs on a swing-arm lamp keep it suspended in air. Supported by a wheelchair, the WREX worked for kids as young as 6.
But Emma was 2, small for her age, and free to move about without a wheelchair. So Tariq Rahman and Whitney Sample of Nemours’ pediatric engineering research lab found a way to shrink the device and make it dramatically lighter: They 3D printed it in ABS plastic on a Stratasys machine. The device empowers Emma to play, feed herself and hug her mom. Now 4, she calls the 3D-printed WREX her “magic arms” and wears it at home, at preschool and in physical therapy.
Watch Emma’s video and read the whole story of how 3D printing helped her reach out and play.
Learn more about arthrogryposis.
For more stories of how 3D printing is helping solve our world’s biggest challenges, and to contribute your own stories of how 3D printing is changing your world, visit the Stratasys Facebook page throughout the month of August.