July 30, 2015 | By Simon

Due to the ability to create functional and fully-customized products for very low cost compared to traditional manufacturing methods, it’s no surprise that additive manufacturing has dramatically disrupted the prosthetics industry.  

However, with over 50,000 children in the U.S. and more than 500,000 children worldwide who suffer from rare diseases and conditions that prevent them from using their arms, it’s become quite clear that there is also a need for 3D printed exoskeletons that can help aide these children in maintaining as much function as possible in their arms.  

Among others who have been focused on making 3D printed exoskeletons a reality for tens of thousands of children is Magic Arms, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that was founded by Eric Jenson, owner of Jenson Studios.

Inspired by Emma, a 3-year-old girl who had difficulty lifting her arms without the aide of supports, Jenson’s Magic Arms is the result of some “very smart people to take assistive technology where it’s never been.”

Previously, Emma had been using her arms with the aid of a stationary, metal robotic exoskeleton called the WREX.  Although the robot worked as intended, it was clear that Emma would be more comfortable in a lightweight solution that allowed her to use her arms without holding her energy back.

Now, Jenson and his small team want to optimize the design to make it even cheaper and more accessible for more users worldwide - and they’re starting with an Indiegogo campaign.   

“We founded Magic Arms to bring a life-changing 3D-printed exoskeleton to these children so they can do what was once impossible, like hugging their parents, brushing their teeth, feeding themselves, or just playing a game,” explains Jenson.

“This technology works and has changed children’s lives, but it is not yet accessible to many children. We need your help to set up care centers so children can get their own Magic Arms and fulfill our waiting list of over 200 children. Our stretch goals will fund a redesign of our exoskeleton and bring Magic Arms to kids who do not have access to health care.”

According to Whitney Sample, a co-inventor of the device, the design allows for children and their families to not only customize it to their liking, but the 3D printed design allows modifications including sizing adjustments during various stages of growth to be created easily and cheaply.  

“The device supports and balances the weight of a child’s arms using a 3D-printed frame and resistance bands,” explains Sample.   

“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.”

Currently, a Magic Arms orthotic costs approximately $7,000 to produce from initial measurements to 3D printing and ultimately, final fitting.  While this is already considerably cheaper than existing comparable devices, the team wants to make it even cheaper through an optimized redesign.

“The current device costs around $7,000 dollars to manufacture, assemble, and fit to a child,” explains the team.   

“Since this technology is so new, not many health insurance plans reimburse patients, leaving many families paying out of pocket. We hope to reduce the cost of the device by making it simpler to manufacture, assemble, and fit to a child while also improving the comfort and function. We are also working to educate health insurance providers so that the cost of the device can be reimbursed.”

Those interested in helping to support the organization can do so by heading over to their Indiegogo page.  Currently, the team has raised just over $7,000 of their $150,000 goal with over a month to go in their campaign.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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