Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

It's shaping the Maker Movement, and transforming the world.

There’s no doubt that 3D printing technology has transformed the manufacturing landscape, fueling the Maker Movement and giving entrepreneurs the chance to prototype new products more efficiently.

But 3D printing also is changing lives, allowing those who have lost or were born without limbs to become more independent.

Here are just seven stories. Be warned: You might have to break out the tissues.

Faith’s New Arm

For just $50, California’s Build It Workspace created a pink and purple 3D-printed arm for a 7-year-old girl named Faith Lennox, who lost her left arm at 9-months-old.  With her new arm, Faith can grasp objects and do normal kid things like ride a bike. “It feels light,” Faith told the Associated Press.

Project Daniel

More than 50,000 people have lost limbs due to the ongoing war in Sudan, many of them children. So Mick Ebeling set up the world’s first 3D-printing prosthetic lab and training facility to help those young people who already have suffered so much. In the clip above, Ebeling tells the story of Daniel Omar, who lost both his arms to a bomb at 14.  

“A Gift for Emma”

Faith Lennox isn’t the only girl with a new pink arm. In Kentucky, local businessman John Richardson used his Makerbot Replicator 2 and a design from the Rochester Institute of Technology to print an arm for Emma Ranshaw, who was born with a partially developed arm. “I wanted it to look hot pink because it’s my favorite color,” Emma said of her new arm.

A Visit from Iron Man

Tony Stark himself — also known as actor Robert Downey Jr. — delivered a 3D-printed arm to Alex, a 7-year-old boy who “loves superheroes and riding his bike” who was born with a partially developed right arm. The arm was built by college student Albert Manero, who builds and donates low-cost 3D-printed limbs to kids worldwide. Alex’s new arm looks quite a lot like the one worn by Iron Man — only, as Downey notes, works a little better (and is a whole lot cheaper).

The Force is Strong With This One

Iron Man isn’t the only one getting in on the 3D-printed action. Liam Porter, a 7-year-old from Augusta, Ga., received a Star Wars-themed 3D-printed arm produced by e-NABLE, an online community that creates prosthetics for people in need. 

Derby the Dog

It’s not just humans seeing the benefits of 3D printing technology — many canine companions also are becoming more mobile because of it. Perhaps the most famous example is Derby the dog, who was born with deformed front legs. Animal lover Tara Anderson worked with her colleagues at 3D Systems to create special legs for Derby, which has allowed him to run two to three miles each day. Derby is now an ambassador of sorts for 3D printing — he even showed off his new limbs at the White House.

Cleopatra the Tortoise

Colorado Technical University design student Roger Henry spent 600 hours to create a custom 3D-printed shell for Cleopatra, a rescued leopard tortoise whose shell had weakened due to a poor diet. The new shell will protect Cleopatra from infection, allowing her to live a long and healthy life.