Jan 13, 2015 | By Simon

While many adults probably remember some of their childhood birthday parties quite fondly, perhaps there are few that will remember theirs as much as 7-year old Liam Porter of Augusta, Georgia, USA.

The young Star Wars fan, who was celebrating his Star Wars-themed birthday party with friends and family this weekend at his neighborhood cinema, thought that he was simply walking out of the movie theater and into his themed birthday party room.  What he didn’t realize however, was that there was Star War’s-inspired 3D printed Stormtrooper prosthetic arm and matching Stormtrooper helmet waiting for him on the party table.

“Cool!” said Liam, giggling.

The 7-year old, who was born without part of his left arm, instantly put on the new 3D printed prosthetic with aid from the arm’s creator, John Peterson.  Once the arm was placed, Liam was able to flex the fingers and hold onto a cup immediately.

Peterson was inspired to create the Stormtrooper arm for Liam after finding the 3D printed prosthetic site e-NABLE.  The site, which connects those in need of an otherwise costly prosthetic with generous designers and engineers who lend their time to create custom 3D printed designs for specific needs, has been extremely successful in changing the lives of many young children by creating superhero or fantasy character-themed prosthetic arms and hands.  Perhaps the best part though, is that all of the designs are put online for other designers to modify and speed up the process for creating custom designs for other children in need, too.  

Peterson, who has only owned a 3D printer for six months, stumbled across the site after researching things that he could do with it, including open source robotics design.  As a new owner of a 3D printer though, the design was not without its challenges for Peterson.  

Using a base model that was made for a right arm, Peterson had to accurately flip the design and make the appropriate design changes so that the arm would remain responsive for Liam’s left arm.  

“There’s very few people who have these so you kind of have to figure it out on your own,” Peterson said. “But because it is for a kid, that also meant having more fun with it.”

The flexible hand part of the arm is also able to slide off and have different attachments added to it... something that Liam and his friend were already brainstorming minutes after Liam was fitted.     

“They want it to look as superhero-ish or as robotic as possible,” Peterson said. ”To them, it is just cool. And it actually frees us up a lot because now we can feel free to try to experiment and do different things. Like, hey, why not put a clamp on a hand? It’s just a tool anyway.”

The surprises didn’t end there, though:

A group of local Star Wars fans from the Georgia Garrison of the 501st Legion  - who dress up as villains from the series and carry the motto “Bad guys doing good” - presented Liam with a “Friend of the Garrison”  Commander Certificate to ensure that he fits in with the Star Wars group - as a leader.  Group member Jen Belgin even handpainted the helmet and detailed the arm to more-closely resemble an actual Stormtrooper arm for the young Stormtrooper.

According to Liam’s mom Ryan, the young Stormtrooper wasn’t happy with traditional prosthetic arms in the past due to their heavy weight.  The 3D printed Stormtrooper prosthetic however, is much lighter and can perform the same functions for a dramatic difference in cost.

In total, the build cost Peterson $300 and over three months of build time, however Peterson said it was “totally worth it.”


Source: The Augusta Chronicle

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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