Emma's Magic Arms exoskeleton, 3D printed by Stratasys, enables her to lift her arms so she can feed herself, pick up items and play
Over 50,000 children in the U.S., and more than 500,000 children worldwide, suffer from rare diseases and conditions that prevent them from using their arms. They can’t hug their parents, brush their teeth, feed themselves, or blow bubbles. Magic Arms, a Minnesota-based non-profit, wants to help these children enjoy these simple pleasures – things that many take for granted. Through a web-based fundraising campaign on Indiegogo, Magic Arms hopes to raise money to ensure that possibility and help more than 200 children currently on the waiting list and countless others across the world.
The story of Magic Arms began in 2012 with a 3-year-old girl, Emma, who couldn’t lift her arms. After meeting Emma and her mom, Whitney Sample and Tariq Rahman of Nemours Children’s Hospital in Delaware, co-inventors of an exoskeleton called the WREX (Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton), began to prototype a scaled-down version of WREX using a Stratasys 3D Printer. Children with conditions like Brachial Plexus Injury (BPI), Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) the could now have ability to move their arms with the support of the 3D printed WREX.
[ Whitney Sample, inventor, assembling the Stratasys 3D printed Magic Arms exoskeleton
The inventors and their research partners used 3D printing to take assistive technology where it had never been before. 3D printing offered strong but lightweight plastic that could be customized and made quickly. “This is one of those industries that matches perfectly with 3D printing, because we need custom everything,” explains Whitney Sample. The WREX supports and balances the weight of a child’s arms using a 3D printed frame and resistance bands. Precision bearings in all joints of the device allow children to amplify their limited arm strength. As children grow, new parts can be printed or modified to meet each child’s unique needs.
Norah falls asleep hugging her mom using her Magic Arms exoskeleton 3D printed by Stratasys
Since 2012, the inventors have fit more than 100 children with 3D printed arm orthotics and worked with the medical community to prove that this is a concept that can scale. The Magic Arms non-profit was founded to take this technology to the next level and train and support hospitals across the world to identify children who will benefit from the Magic Arms orthotic and properly fit it to children. On July 22, 2015, the non-profit launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund a complete redesign of its 3D printed exoskeleton. Magic Arms, collaborating with Stratasys, aims to make the device more affordable and functional, and it plans to train five regional hospitals to help children across the U.S. “Every kid deserves to be able to hug their mom and dad,” says Angie Zavoral Conley, Magic Arms’ executive director. “Our Indiegogo campaign is an important step on that path.”
Stratasys has been collaborating with Magic Arms since 2012. "Shaping lives by revolutionizing the way things are made is part of Stratasys' core purpose and our corporate social responsibilities. Working with Magic Arms to 3D print orthotics that enable children with muscular disorders to move their arms is the manifestation of our mission and purpose to shape lives," said Arita Mattsoff, Vice President Public Relations and Responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility at Stratasys.