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3D Printed “Magic Arms” Bring Joy to Handicapped Child

Medical use of additive manufacturing (AM) continues to grow and expand. Stories about 3D printers used to create a new jawbone, prosthetics and possibly even medicine demonstrate the flexibility of the technology. Even better, it can be used to put a smile on a child’s face.

Emma Lavelle was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC). The condition made it impossible for her to raise her arms by herself. While at an AMC conference, her parents learned about the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX), an upper body exoskeleton that provides support for children, allowing them to use their arms.

Emma's "magic arms"

Emma hugs her mother thanks to a 3D printed exoskeleton. Courtesy of Stratasys.

After the conference, Megan Lavelle, Emma’s mother, met with Tariq Rahman, Ph.D, head of pediatric engineering and research, and Whitney Sample, research designer, both from Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children inWilmington, DE. Emma was strapped into a small, prototype version of WREX and was immediately able to feed herself, play with toys and hug her family.

The only problem with the WREX solution was the exoskeleton’s metal framework.

“The existing WREX was all metal parts, and it’s kind of big, and Emma was too small for that,” said Rahman. “So we required something light and small that would attach to her body and go with her.”

Rahman had access to a Dimension SST 1200es printer from Stratasys, and decided to attempt to build a small, lighter version of WREX using AM parts. The ABS plastic parts created by the Dimension were just the right fit for little Emma, and before long Rahman and Sample had designed a WREX fitted to a plastic vest that was light enough to be used by a child.

The plastic WREX also turned out to be durable enough for everyday use. Emma called the exoskeleton her “magic arms” and would begin to cry if they were taken away for repair. Since the creation of the smaller WREX, 15 other children have benefited from 3D printed exoskeletons.

“This is one of those industries that matches perfectly with 3D printing – additive manufacturing – because we need custom everything,” added Sample.

Below you’ll find a video about Emma and her magic arms.

Source: Stratasys

About John Newman

John Newman is a freelance writer in Northeast Ohio.


  1. No tooling, no waste, just great innovation that makes a real difference to everyday lives

  2. My husband showed this to our family and told our children, “This is why we don’t play video games. We’re on this earth to be productive and help people. The inventors of the Magic Arms put a lot of work into doing just that and they have succeeded. But they couldn’t have done it if they chose to waste their life playing video games.”

    • Mrs ,

      You have no idea how much the gaming industry has done to bring changes to how computers work today.
      If the constant drive to make games more visually pleasing , more responsive and interactive wasn’t there , computers in general would have been designed very differently than they are today.
      Joysticks , trackballs , kinekt devices , the emotiv (http://www.emotiv.com/) real time EEG monitor , all tools that used gaming to go mainstream and make the hardware cheap and available in large quantities , all of which are essential tools to helping disabled people. Not on some minor level , but on a life changing level.

      Don’t dis gaming mrs..

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