With the help of biomedical engineering students at Washington University in St. Louis, the Washington University Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery Biomaterials Lab builds both robotic and mechanical arm prostheses using 3D printers.
The arm prosthesis attaches at the elbow. The robotic prosthesis is controlled by a box that rests on the shoulder. The box contains a chip, which sends electronic signals to a controller inside the prosthetic arm. By moving the shoulder in different ways, a person can move the arm or hand, open or close the fingers, open or close the thumb, or twist the wrist. Patients typically learn how to control the arm quickly.
The lab uses imaging to shape the fitting of the prosthetic arm to the elbow. The prosthetic arm is especially suitable for children, who grow and may break all or part of the prosthesis.
The lab's first prosthetic arm was built for a 4-year-old patient of Washington University orthopedic surgeon Charles Goldfarb, MD, at Shriners Hospital.