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Two-year old Emma's life started out a little shaky - Born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a rare disorder that affects muscle strength and limb movement, she had a hard time lifting herself. However, her condition improved as she grew older allowing her to be a normal toddler in everyway except for the fact that she could not lift her hands. Now, thanks to some amazing technology, a 3-D printer and some caring doctors, the little girl has been bestowed with what she aptly calls 'magic arms'.
Emma's life took a turn for the better when her mother attended a conference in Philadelphia where she learnt about the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX), as assistive device created to enable people with weak arms to become more self-sufficient. Believing that the exoskeleton, which comprises of hinged metal bars and resistance bands may be just what Emma needed to become independent, she approached the inventors, Dr. Tariq Rahman and Whitney Sample at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.
Sure enough, they agreed to allow Emma to be part of the initial group of people selected to test the prototype. However, because the original version of the WREX had been designed for older kids and/or adults, it was too large and heavy for Emma.
So, the two doctors decided to create a smaller version for the little girl, one that was light enough for her to carry around. But instead of doing it the traditional way they simply sketched their exact requirements and 'printed' a custom-size ABS plastic Exoskeleton using a Stratasys 3-D printer. The best part is that the printer is extremely easy to use and so cost effective, that the doctors will be able to replace broken parts easily and also create new custom exoskeleton arms for Emma, as she grows.
Meanwhile, Emma is using her magic arms to do what every toddler loves to - Create colorful drawings with crayons, play with her dolls and build Lego castles! And she is not the only one - Currently, about 15 young kids have found a new lease to life, thanks to the amazing invention and 3-D printing technology and the numbers, can only increase - Science is truly awesome!