3D printing helping kids overcome disabilities

A little boy in Hawaii born without fingers got a robotic hand thanks to 3D printing. According to KHON 2 News, three-year-old Rayden Kahae is a happy and loving child, but the boy they call “Bubba” has always been different from the rest of the neighborhood kids in Wailuku.

“Bubba” was born with the rare condition amniotic band syndrome (ABS), which causes fiber-like bands to form in the amniotic sac that can wrap around parts of the baby’s body, reducing blood supply and restricting normal growth.


As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, 3D printers (a majority of which are powered by AVR XMEGAmegaAVR and SAM3X8E MCUs) are inching closer and closer to mainstream — particularly throughout the medical world. In recent months, researchers have experienced a number of bioprinting marvels, from designing a 3D-printed splint that saved the life of an infant born with severe tracheobronchomalacia to surgically implanting a 3D-printed vertebrae into a 12-year-old cancer patient.

Bubba always knew he was different, but continued to flourish despite his disability, according to his grandmother, Rulan Waikiki. “He knew from earlier on when he could notice that his sister had two hands and he didn’t — that he always said he doesn’t like that hand he wanted one like [his sister],” the boy’s grandmother added.


Commercially made prosthetics used to cost up to $40,000, but with recent advancements in 3D printing technology, more affordable options have been made available to patients like Bubba. Earlier this year, Waikiki happened upon a website for the nonprofit group, E-Nable, which operates off donations and volunteers to provide 3D-printed prosthetics for patients at no cost. Last week, Bubba was selected as one of those patients.

“He wanted an ‘Ironman hand,’” Waikiki said. “As soon as he put it on and was able to close the hand, his face just lit up.”

Bubba, who will turn four in November, will be refitted for similar prosthetics as he grows.


This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, a youngster was given a second lease on life thanks to 3D printing. Last year, MakerBot printed a prosthetic device for a two-year-old girl in Huntsville, Alabama who born without four fingers on her left hand; while even more recently, Aaron Brown, a volunteer at E-nabling The Future, took things one step further by designing a set of fake Wolverine claws to make kids wearing prosthetics feel like superheroes.

“It was very early on this year, while studying 3D printing that I saw what the e-NABLE group was doing. I knew instantly and told my wife that I couldn’t own a 3D printer, let alone make plans to own many more and not do my part to help the cause. That’s when I built my first trial hand. A little snap together Robohand. Since then, I have just finished my 5th e-NABLE hand,the Wolverine Edition, and I am planning to make many more,” Brown writes.


The idea was brought to life for the Grand Rapids Maker Faire. Brown had modified e-NABLE’s free prosthetic hand plans, devising an edition with Wolverine-inspired “claws” he thought would appeal especially to children.

“The Comic loving nerd inside of me (along with some Facebook friends) said there is no way I can make a Wolverine hand without CLAWS…so I modeled some in Sketchup the morning before the makerfaire, printed ‘em, spray painted ‘em silver and velcro’d ‘em on there. Turned out pretty darn cool!”

As you can imagine, the superhero-themed prosthetic was a hit. Simply because one is missing a hand doesn’t mean you can’t be a superhero. The incredible response has inspired the Maker to consider and begin brainstorming other hero-themed prosthetics, including Batman, Iron Man and even Captain America.

This is surely another prime example of how the Maker Movement continues to make its mark, and ultimately, ‘make’ a difference.

6 thoughts on “3D printing helping kids overcome disabilities

  1. Pingback: Who’s the Maker behind the first 3D printer? | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  2. Pingback: 16-year-old Maker creates device that converts breath to speech | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  3. Pingback: 3D printing helps save the life of a two-week-old baby | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  4. Pingback: 3D-printed prosthetic makes kids feel like Iron Man | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  5. Pingback: Youbionic will let you 3D print your own prosthetic hand | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

  6. Pingback: Youbionic will let you 3D print your own prosthetic hand | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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