More than 50,000 children in the U.S. and more than 500,000 worldwide suffer from illness or conditions that weakens their muscles to the point that they they are unable to use their arms. Many tasks that we take for granted in a toddler — feeding themselves, playing with toys, hugging their parents — are not possible for them. A team at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Delaware created a stationary device that provided assistance to a child with such a problem, but they wanted to create something that would let her move around normally. With help from Stratasys, they turned to 3D printing and lightweight plastics to create a custom exoskeleton to fit the little girl’s arms. And thus the “Magic Arms” project was born. The system can be custom made for each patient, and replacement parts can be produced as the child grows.
Now based in Minneapolis, the non-profit has a single center with a single trained expert to create these custom devices for patients. Since 2012, the group has helped more than 100 families by creating similar devices, but they want to do more. They want to add more 3D printers and more trained clinicians to help fit the devices to the children who need them. Ultimately, they want to create a system where parents could take the required measurements and “send away” for a set of Magic Arms for their child, and work with their own team of healthcare professionals to put the system into use.
Magic Arms has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to open more centers across the U.S. They also plan to work with experts to improve the design of the orthotic and cut its cost in half. They will make the device easier to manufacture, assemble, and fit to patients. The group already has a waiting list of more than 200 children who could benefit from the device, and this funding could help make that happen faster. It may not make these kids as strong as Sigourney Weaver’s “Ripley” character from “Aliens”, but it has the power to change their lives and the lives of their families.