7-year-old girl gets new hand from 3-D printer Faith Lennox, 7, left, shows her mother Nicole her newly 3-D printed hand at the Build it Workspace in Los Alamitos, California (AP photos)
7-year-old girl gets new hand from 3-D printer
Lexile

Seven-year-old Faith Lennox never thought much about putting a prosthetic limb where her missing left hand had once been.

Not until the little girl learned she could design her own. And that she could strap it on easily. Then she could jump on her bike and pedal away.

With family members occasionally shouting "Be careful" and "Watch out for that car," Faith firmly placed her new hand's bright blue and pink fingers on her bike's left handlebar. Then she took off. She rode around the Build It Workspace. Inside, just a short time before, that hand had rolled off a 3-D printer that built it overnight.

"I don't think we'll ever get her off it," said her mother, Nicole. She was smiling with resignation as she watched her daughter continue to circle the parking lot in Los Alamitos. It is a suburb in Orange County, California.

The prosthetic that had just made such a task immediately easy represents a breakthrough in small, lightweight hands. They are easy for children to use. It weighs only a pound and costs just $50 to construct. It is made out of the same materials used to make drones and automobile parts.

When Faith outgrows it in six months or a year, a replacement can be made just as cheaply and easily. That's according to Mark Muller, a prosthetics professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He helped with the design. He said a heavier adult model with sensors attached to a person's muscles would run $15,000 to $20,000.

Faith manipulates her hand without sensors. Instead, as she demonstrated after the bike ride, she moves her upper arm back and forth. That in turn opens and closes its blue and pink fingers. "My favorite colors," she noted with a smile. She uses the fingers to grasp objects. One was the plush toy she brought with her.

The oldest of three children, Faith had compartment syndrome when her position during childbirth cut off the flow of blood to her left forearm. The issue damaged tissue, muscle and bone. After nine months of trying to save the limb, doctors determined they had to amputate just below the elbow.

She had tried a couple more traditional and more expensive prosthetics over the year. She found them bulky, heavy and hard to use.

Her parents were working with the nonprofit group E-Nable to get her a 3-D-printed hand. But the technology is so new there's a waiting list, her mother said. Then she learned from a friend what Build It Workspace could do. His son had visited with his Scout troop. The small studio teaches people to use high-tech printers. It provides access to them for projects and does its own commercial printing.

The company was founded less than a year ago by mechanical engineer Mark Lengsfeld. The firm has printed out everything from pumps for oil and gas companies to parts for unmanned aerial vehicles. But this was the first hand Lengsfeld and his employees had built.

So he used E-Nable's open-source technology and called in Cal State, Dominguez Hills' experts for guidance.

When Faith quickly strapped on their new creation and headed out to ride, as TV cameras captured the moment, Lengsfeld admitted he was nervous. After being up all night finishing the hand, he wanted to test it himself to be sure it worked.

"But she did fine with it," he said, chuckling.

She noted it did fine by her as well.

"I didn't have to lean so much," she said of the difficulty of navigating and steering a bike with just one hand.

Afterward, as onlookers crowded into Build It's small studio, the little girl sat shyly in front of a huge poster. "Hand It To Faith," it read. Lengsfeld had made it for her.

But when asked to demonstrate how she can use the hand to help with things like schoolwork, she got busy. She placed her new hand firmly on a piece of paper. The hand held it in place as she drew a picture.

And just what did she draw?

Her new hand, of course, complete with robot fingers in perfect detail.

Critical thinking challenge: Name three advantages of the 3-D printed hand over conventional prosthetics

Assigned 186 times


COMMENTS (194)
  • hailie1237
    4/07/2015 - 11:26 a.m.

    I'm really excited for Faith. It doesnt mentioned how faiths left hand went missing, but we do know that its not there. She herself helped with the design of her new hand, thats probably why its blue and pink. I would like to read more about faith and where her journey takes her. This story is inspirational because it says Faith never would of thought about having a left hand.

  • Taryne
    4/07/2015 - 11:26 a.m.

    That's really amazing, it's so great to see a smile on Faith's face! She has so much life to live, and now she can do it with two hands. She must've been very excited that she got to create her own 3-D arm, and make it in her favorite personal colors. She is an inspiration to many!

  • DelanieTGold
    4/07/2015 - 11:50 a.m.

    Wow! I think this is really cool! I'm glad this technology is being used for a good cause, like giving a little girl a new hand.

  • LydiaHPink
    4/07/2015 - 11:53 a.m.

    This is beautiful. We need more little girls like Faith her self love to herself is strong and I hope she keeps it. I can't believe a 7 year old did this for herself. I love her helmet too.

  • MasonHBlue
    4/07/2015 - 11:54 a.m.

    This story is weird to me, because of how the hand looks. I know that at least she has a hand to use now, but it doesn't look that life like to me, like described in the paragraph.

  • JoseFGreen
    4/07/2015 - 11:58 a.m.

    That is cool that a 3-d printer made a hand for the little girl now she can do many things like ride a bike hold stuff play a lot more games outside she can do so many things now.

  • JoshSBlue
    4/07/2015 - 11:58 a.m.

    I think that this is a very inspiring story. A girl born with compartment syndrome has found a way to live almost a normal life. I personally did not think a 3D printer could make something that big. I think it is pretty cool that she got to pick the colors too.

    • andrewre-Mag
      4/07/2015 - 12:24 p.m.

      Yes,I think it is really cool that she got to pick the colors and design her own. It is a very amazing story. ind it is amazing how technology has improved over the years. I'm amazed how it only weighs 1 pound!

  • MichaelGgreen
    4/07/2015 - 11:59 a.m.

    I am happy that we can now help people that needs it the most. Like the girl in this article she was hopeless at first but then got helped from this amazing machine called the 3d printer.

  • NicholasKBlue
    4/07/2015 - 12:00 p.m.

    I think it's amazing that things like this are so easy to make and produce now, I learned 3D printing in my computer class and I knew what it could do, but I didn't think that it could make and replace entire limbs that functioned normally. Technology has always managed to amaze me, and hopefully it will for years to come.

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