2012-08-03

Co.Exist

A 3-D Printed Exoskeleton For The Disabled

Two-year-old Emma couldn’t move her arms before she was outfitted with this amazing device.

Is there anything 3-D printing can’t do? We’ve seen 3-D printed burritos, guns, cars, and now a 3-D printed exoskeleton, created for a two-year old named Emma with arthrogryposis--a congenital disorder that causes muscle weakness and stiff joints.

The exoskeleton, created with a Dimension 3D printer by researchers at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, is a 3-D printed version of the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX), a device made of resistance bands and metal bars. The normal WREX would have been perfect for Emma’s case, but she’s too small. Instead, researchers printed a smaller version more suitable to her weight and size. The result: a plastic device that allows Emma to move her arms (she previously was unable to lift them) up to her mouth.

This isn’t the only medical use for 3-D printed objects. Last year, we looked at 3-D printing bone technology that could one day help people grow new bone tissue. Further down the line, we might even see 3-D printed kidneys.

Check out Emma’s story in the video above.

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