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January 13, 2015

The future is now: 3D prosthetics a reality

A 3D print enthusiast, prop maker and carpenter partner to make child 'Stormtrooper' limb

A 7-year-old Georgia boy was recently fitted with a 3D-printed prosthetic arm modeled after a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper.

A 3D printing enthusiast, a prop maker and a carpenter collaborated to make the prosthetic, coming together through, E-NABLE, an online community of volunteers who make 3-D replacement limbs for those in need at no cost.

The child, Liam Porter, of Augusta, Ga., was born without part of his left arm.

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He had a traditional prosthetic when he was younger, but it was cumbersome and he didn’t use it, his mother, Ryan, told Tom Corwin of The Augusta Chronicle, calling the original prothetic a “dead weight.”

 The new arm, created by 3-D printing enthusiast John Peterson and modeled after the armor worn by the Imperial Stormtroopers in Star Wars, is lighter, easier to move and cheaper, costing approximately $300 compared to the approximately $9,000 price tag associated with a typical prosthetic.

 John Rieffel, an assistant professor of computer science at Union College in Schenectady, New York, who specializes in 3-D printing, explained to U.S. News & World Report how it works.

 3-D printing works by melting thin plastic filament and squeezing it through a nozzle, building up computer-generated renderings layer by layer, Rieffel said. 

This technology means the prosthetics can to be custom made, reducing the cost, which is especially benefical for children, who  quickly outgrow their replacement limbs, Rieffel told U.S. News & World Report.