Limbitless: Florida Engineering Students 3D-Print Bionic Arms For Kids
Limbitless Solutions creates bionic limbs for children aged five and above
Tech-savvy engineers at University of Central Florida (UFC) have crafted bionic arms for children using additive manufacturing — 3D printing.
The students have even launched their own non-profit organization to print more mechanical limbs.
Limbitless Solutions creates bionic limbs for children aged five and above who are missing arms or fingers. Founded in at UCF last year, the bionic mission has since expanded to University of Florida (UF).
Most bionic arms produced by private companies sell for thousands of dollars — but the arms UF develops cost just $350 to make. Funding for the limbs is offset by donations made to Limbitless.
Limbitless says its mission is to create a world “where everyone has access to the tools necessary to manufacture simple, affordable, and accessible solutions through open source design and 3D printing”.
Most 3D arms are mechanical, which can create challenges for those without elbows, but the Florida students’ are electronic. They rely on a special muscle sensor that enables opening and closing of the hand in response to the flexing of a bicep.
The group came together after UF engineering students saw the UCF Limbitless chapter give a presentation at a Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers’ conference.
Santiago Marin, mechanical and aerospace engineering senior, and a founding student of the UF chapter, told Alligator: “It shouldn’t just be limited to Orlando.”
The group drew inspiration from Alex Pring, a boy who suffered though teasing because he had a missing arm. Albert Manero, a UCF engineering doctoral student, set out to create a robotic replacement for the boy and was able to deliver it free of charge last year.
“I was really inspired,” Albert told NBC News. “When I got back, I talked to my colleagues and friends and said: ‘We can do this.’”
Albert put the blueprints for his design on websites so that other kids like Alex can download them for free, and so that engineers can develop them further.
“We are going to put these files up there, and we hope that people will take what we have and make it so much better,” he said. “I have no doubt that the international community will try to move this technology forward and lower the cost.”
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