A 3D Printing Christmas Story from 3DP
3D printing has helped another family in a personal way. 3D Platform (3DP) (Roscoe, Illinois, USA) teamed up with DimensionWorks (Ocala, Florida, USA), 3D Rapid Prototyping (Garden Grove, California, USA), and a small group of people from around the country to make Christmas a little better for Chris and Sonia Choquette’s son, Aidan.
“We learned about Aidan at the Manufacturers Association of Florida conference in mid-November,” says Don McFarlane, Roadshow Tech for 3DP. “He had been waiting for a prosthetic arm for over a year through the normal medical routes. We knew we could provide a quicker solution, so we looked into alternative prosthetics and came to a collaborative decision to use the E-nable “Alfie” arm designed by Team UnLimbited.”
Referring to Thingiverse’s article “The Unlimbited Arm v2.0 – Alfie Edition,” 3DP customized the arm to perfectly fit the size and shape of Aidan’s arm. The Enabling the Future group allows people with 3D printers to create articulated prosthetics for amputees and others with missing fingers, hands, or even, as in this case, lower arms. Once sizing was completed, it was on to the most critical part: color. Aidan’s favorite color is blue, so the end-result had to be a great shade in a strong material that would hold up to his daily activities of playing and having fun.
After all the parts were printed, it was time to clean them up and assemble them. 3DP used a new support material called Scaffholding from the online store, E3D, which broke away with little residue. What remained was washed away with warm water.
“One challenge we faced was removing the support material from the line guide on the forearm,” explains McFarlane. “One trick we tried was using a metal coat hanger to push the support material out. This had limited success as the material would break loose but didn’t come out of the middle area of the printed object. The alternative was using a long drill bit and drilling at slow speeds to clean out the guide holes.”
“To assemble the prosthetic, we looked at some online videos,” explains McFarlane. “We did need some help with the cord routing and part identification, because some of the parts looked similar, and some reference images didn’t distinctly show the smaller parts.” Sourcing the small rubber bands that Team UnLimbited recommended (ones made for dental braces) was difficult, so 3DP decided to use small hairbands instead. “Placing them was simple and surprisingly quick. The control lines were a bit trickier. We used fishing line, but had to super-glue the knots so they wouldn’t untie,” explains McFarlane.
Two completed prosthetics were printed (one by 3DP, the other by 3D Rapid Prototyping) one of which was delivered to Aidan on Christmas Eve. The second one was printed for spare parts, and shipped the following week. “Chris and Sonia informed us that Aidan wants to use his new arm to learn how to ride his bike,” says McFarlane. “We are all honored to help him achieve his goal, and we look forward to helping others in the near future.”