Ben Ryan is former teacher turned inventor. Using 3D printing he has created a prosthetic arm suitable for use by babies, honing in on the early stages of life: a critical period in which children are active in learning new things and having formative experiences.

Ryan’s project, now under the name Ambionics, started in 2015 when his son Sol had to have his left arm amputated at birth. He has since started a campaign on Indiegogo to help provide the arms to other children in need.

Sol holds on to his father's hand with the prosthetic arm as he eats. Photo via Ben Ryan on Indiegogo

Sol holds on to his father’s hand with the prosthetic arm as he eats. Photo via Ben Ryan on Indiegogo

Children miss out on motor knowledge up to the age of 3

In a typical circumstance where a child is born without the use of an arm, health services in the UK are only able to provide a cosmetic, non-functional arm within 8 – 11 weeks. For a moving arm, that is able to grab things with an affixed hand, the wait is longer still, and children are left until the age of three before they can have one.

Ryan additionally points out,

I discovered a fairly clear pattern where children not fitted with a functional hand until after 2 years of age tended to reject prosthetics.  I didn’t want that to happen to Sol so I designed something that could be worn much earlier…

Made with the help of Autodesk and Stratasys

With the help of Fusion 360 software, and advice from Autodesk product designer Paul Sohi, Ryan was able to design a hydraulic powered prosthetic arm without small-parts, that is also comfortable for his little boy Sol. It has a moving hand at the end of it, activated by arm muscles pressing pads inside the arm.

Demonstration of grip with the Ambionics stage two prototype. Clip via Ben Ryan on YouTube.

The design is 3D printed in multiple materials using a Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) Connex 3D printer. Rubbery material helps give the hand definite grip on an object, and the rigid white plastic ensures durability. Ryan explains,

The success of my patented DAHB mechanism draws on the advanced capabilities of the Stratasys Connex Printer – the ability to combine rigid and soft materials in a single print was vital to the success of the design

Manufacturing the arms in this way also cuts the typical cost of a functioning prosthetic arm by up 76%, with design and production time saving up to 90%.

How others can help

The Ambionics Indiegogo campaign is running throughout March 2017. From a minimum of £5, supporters have the opportunity to support Ryan in acquiring the appropriate certification, patents, and finalising the perfect prototype.

Sol uses the 2nd Ambionics arm prototype. Clip via Ben Ryan on YouTube

There are additional perks too, including recognition in the project’s Hall of Fame and t-shirts to help spread the word.

In total, Ryan is looking for £150,000 (Approx. $184,659). for the project, which is clearly split as follows:

  • £80,000 for CE certification and FDA approval
  • £20,000 for patenting and intellectual property for international distribution
  • £50,000 for prototyping for power assisted improvements to the arm

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Featured image shows Ben Ryan and his 2 year old son Sol with a 3D printed prosthetic arm. Photo via Ben Ryan on Indiegogo

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