I recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing a true celebrity for the Stratasys Blog, the amazing Alex Pring. We featured Alex on the Stratasys blog back in November 2014 and since then his bionic fame has risen to meteoric heights.
Limbitless, which recently inked a formal relationship with the University of Central Florida, has been using Stratasys FDM-based 3D printers to create the coolest, branded prosthetic arms for kids including the smiling 7-year old from Groveland, Florida. His meet up with Robert Downey Jr where they fist pumped their respective Iron Man adorned appendages has gone viral with well over 9,000,000 views and Alex has scored almost 40,000,000 views on his Facebook page!
So I was quite fortunate to grab a few minutes with Alex and his mom, Alyson, on Skype…and even luckier to later meet him in person at the University of Central Florida (UCF) at a press conference announcing a 3D prosthetics printing partnership between Limbitless and UCF.
Michael: First of all Alex, EVERYBODY is asking about your meeting with Robert Downey Jr. What was it like?
Alex: It was amazing! Really amazing!! I couldn’t think of any words to say. I was freaking out. I saw all four movies before - Iron Man 1, 2 and 3 plus The Avengers
Michael: What did Robert/Tony Stark tell you?
Alex: He said that my arm was way cooler than his. And that my light was working. His was just kind of blinking. Oh we both said we want our own Jarvis (the virtual butler/assistant to Tony Stark)
Michael: How do the kids in school react?
Alex: Well they used to say, “What happened to your arm?” That made me so sad. Now they say, “Wow, that arm is so cool!!” That is fun.
Michael: So now, you’re like the coolest kid in school…
Alex: Yeah, almost everyone in the whole entire school , knows me.
Michael: Not only the school but the whole world. What was it like the first time you tried one of these bionic arms that Limbitless created? What was the first thing you did?
Alex: The first thing I did was hug my mom. Guess what she did? She cried.
Michael: That’s what moms do.
Alyson: (Alex’s mom) They were happy tears.
The 3D printed Iron Man hand shake seen around the world with Alex Pring and Robert Downey Jr, photo courtesy Microsoft’s OneNote #CollectiveProject
The 3D Printed Iron Man arm, KT Crabb Photography
Michael: What kinds of activities can you do now that you couldn’t do before?
Alex: I can ride a bike. I can hold two things at once. I can give two high fives.
Alyson: We find one new thing we can do every day.
Alex: Yeah, but some times we do a couple of new things every day
Alyson: It’s a big help in school because it holds his paper down when he writes. And it allows him to hold his tray at lunch. With every new model he gets we’re like “Let’s try this, let’s try that.
Alex Pring proudly displaying his world famous 3D printed Iron Man arm, with Michael Swack, Marketing Manager, Stratasys at the University of Central Florida
Michael: Why is the design important?
Alyson: When he got his first arm which was white, they assumed he would want it to look natural. The first thing he wanted to do was decorate it. He is 7, he likes color, he likes bright designs. He doesn’t mind standing out– as long as it is for a positive reason.
Michael: One last question, if you could talk to all the boys and girls out there who are thinking about getting a bionic or prosthetic arm, what would you tell them?
Alex: I would say you can go to Limbitless and the University of Central Florida (UCF) and you can get an arm too. It might take time but it will be awesome because you can pick any design, any colors and they keep working hard and they never stop until they make you a perfect arm. And then we will have bionic kids everywhere!