3-D printing is unlocking a whole new world of possibilities in prosthetics. Those in need of artificial limbs can increasingly choose custom designs and embellishments and have them printed to fit them at a relatively low cost.
These new options are most exciting for children, who have the issue of frequently outgrowing their prostheses. Now, instead of paying through the nose for a new prosthetic after each growth spurt, parents can choose to outfit their kids with 3-D printed designs. In July, a young boy in Florida received a 3-D printed arm that cost only $350 to make -- compared to the $40,000 his parents had expected to pay for a traditional prosthetic. That's a big difference, especially when you factor in how many new arms the child will need until he finishes growing.
In the above video, animator and mechanical designer Pat Starace presents the ultimate kid-friendly prosthetic. Based on the design of Marvel superhero Iron Man's crime-fighting robotic armor, the hand seems to have full functionality and a bold sense of style.
In addition to giving a child all the range of movement expected from an artificial arm, the prototype in the video is outfitted with a Bluetooth connection, battery and charger, and Arduino technology. The Arduino is a simple computing tool, and gives the hand basic sensors so it can react to specific movements. In this case, the sensors allow the wearer to shoot pretend lasers by performing Iron Man's signature hand gesture.
The goal, Starace told Mashable, is to raise kids' self-esteem to "superhero levels." The device hasn't been tested by a pint-sized hero yet, but Starace says it's ready to go.