3D Printing

Apparently Beautiful 3D Printed Prosthetic Arms are what Architecture Students Make when they are Bored

arm smile 3d printingWhile seeking his architecture degree, Evan Kuester found himself bored with his classes and decided to find himself a new challenge. Having seen fellow student Ivania around campus, he decided on a whim to simply walk up to her and ask if he could design and 3D print her a prosthetic arm. That may have been a bold move, but it’s one that paid off. Not just because she said yes, but he also gained a new friend, and as unlikely as it sounds, a new direction for his life.

Ivania took it in her stride, saying: “It was definitely one of those moments where I had to ask myself, ‘is this real life?’ because it was just so bizarre. But I decided to go along with it and see how it played out, I mean worst case scenario I just didn’t get an arm.”

white close 3d printing

But she did get an arm, and just look at the arm that Ivania ended up with. The first arm prosthesis that Evan created is called – appropriately enough – Ivania 1.0. The prosthesis arm is purely decorative, likened to a piece of jewellery or expensive designer clothing that someone would only wear to a fancy event. Evan even included a dramatic light inside. It makes quite a statement, especially for a very first attempt at 3D modelling.

“I was familiar with modelling for architectural practices, building exteriors and interiors; however I had never made anything this small before.” Evan explained to me via email. “There are a whole new set of challenges that apply to small objects that don’t apply directly to buildings so there was a bit of a learning curve.”

ivania lightup 3d printing

Evan had initially just eyeballed Ivania’s arm and taken no measurements or pictures, but after a few steps into the design process he ended up realising that was a mistake. His eventual measurements were unfortunately off just a little bit, so he feels that the arm was too big and bulky. While Ivania 1.0 is a striking prosthesis, Evan simply wasn’t completely happy with it so went back to the drawing board.

ivania 2 close 3d printingAccording to Ivania: “Evan, from the beginning, very much wanted my feedback on the arm. After our initial conversation and idea planning Evan came up with some design options and I got to choose what I preferred and let him know of things I didn’t really like or weren’t my style, and Evan has taken every thing into consideration. As for comfort and use, the idea from the beginning was to have it slip onto my arm, as that is the most comfortable way to have it attached, it requires no additional attachments – the ribbon seen in the pictures is only decorative. We never really discussed making an arm useful in the way a traditional arm is, we were creating an art piece which is a route that isn’t normally taken in terms of prosthetics.”

Having learned a few things from his first attempt Evan made significant changes to his original design and his design process. This time around he took more accurate measurements, made the profile slimmer and more delicate, and printed it in a dramatic black ABS material with a red decorative ribbon.

Ivania was not new to prosthesis, as she was born without an arm and has had several before Evan approached her in her school’s computer lab. She received her first when she was two, and as an adult she currently has four prosthetic arms. The two 3D printed arms made for her by Evan, a functional arm that opens and closes, allowing her to pick up objects, and a purely aesthetic arm that is painted to match her skin color and appear natural. As you might expect, when she wears her 3D printed arm in public it causes some occasional commotion.

ivania 2 crossedarms“Most people don’t immediately notice that I’m missing a hand, but they do almost immediately notice when I’m wearing a prosthetic (especially when it’s not my skin color).” Ivania says. “While taking the pictures actually, I was waiting to cross the street from the parking lot to the location and a few cars definitely slowed down to stare and that doesn’t necessarily bother me I think I was more annoyed that they didn’t let me pass.”

As for Evan, he has designed several more prosthesis, but at the moment lacks a 3D printer to print them with. He had printed his first two arms on his school’s 3D printers, however when school ended he decided to get his own. He only had his MakerBot Replicator 2 for a few months before it broke down and he has been unable to get it working since. But that hasn’t stopped Evan from wanting to pursue 3D printing and prosthesis design.

evan ivania 3d printing“After meeting Ivania and designing the first arm, I discovered a whole new field that I loved and wanted to pursue. After years of studying Architecture I had grown weary of its slow speed and resistance to change, so I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to see what I could do in another field. Now that I have seen the internet’s response to Ivania’s 2nd arm, I have basically decided to drop architecture and see what this field has to offer. I am currently studying for my Masters in Architecture, so I think I will finish what I started and then move fully into prostheses.”

I may be straying a little too far into sappy territory, but for me the best part of this story isn’t Evan’s beautiful prosthetic arms, or even his decision to continue working in prostheses, but rather it’s the unlikely formation of a new friendship. But the prosthetic arms are still pretty cool, and it would be nice if he could continue making them for Ivania. MakerBot? You guys want to help him get his Replicator 2 working or what?

You can find more pictures of his prosthesis and his other design projects here on Evan Kuester’s website.