Dad uses Bionic 3D Printing to Create Revolutionary Prosthetic Arm for Baby Son

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Bionic 3D printing has been witnessing innovative leaps for some time now. Inspired from nature, bionics has some special characteristics not always realisable by straight forward engineering calculations. From vision-less microorganisms deep inside Mariana Trench to high-altitude fir trees on top of Himalayas, every creature has something to tell us about its design speciality. Here is an article about how spider’s legs inspired a devoted dad to create a bionic arm for his baby son using 3D printing.

Sol is a baby boy born to Kate and Ben Ryan in Bangor, England in March 2015. Named after solar eclipse on the day he was born, Sol had an undetected clot on his upper left arm. So his arm had to be amputated within ten days. The family was informed that no proper prosthetic arm was available until the baby was 3 or 4 years old. Deeply saddened by the unexpected turn of events, Ben Ryan explored ways to help his son use his both arms during this period of early brain development. He turned to bionic 3D printing to design and develop the right prosthetic arm for his beloved son.

bionic 3D printing


The former psychology lecturer left his job and involved full time in the prosthetic limb development. He derived his working principle inspired from how spiders move their legs. He then decided to use user-squashed fluid sacks as the control means for grabbing mechanism. Within two months he taught himself the basics of product design and came up with a preliminary model. Using his Microsoft Xbox Kinect scanner connected to his laptop, he then scanned his son’s arm while he was asleep. Then he 3D printed it from the local university and made the first prototype of Sol’s prosthetic arm. The bionic 3D printed arm successfully got integrated with Sol, he is able to grip things and power the hydraulic limb himself.


Ben declared that he also intends to use bionic 3D printing and develop prosthetic limbs for babies across the world. He founded his startup Ambionics to make 3D printable and body powered hydraulic prosthetics for very young amputees. He is also running a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo to raise ₤150,000 ($162,000) to develop the business. The device is produced with better cost and time efficiency through the use of 3D printing compared to conventional prosthetics in the market. As a result once established, thousands of children between 1 and 2 years of age will have the opportunity to get fitted with a prosthetic.

bionic 3D printing
Bionic arm by Ambionics (Source: Indiegogo)

“I’m not a designer or an engineer – out of pure determination and love for my son, I taught myself how to use design software (Autodesk Fusion 360) last summer and using just a lap top, an Xbox 360 Kinect scanner and my local University’s 3D printers, and created this unique technology. It could potentially be worn by millions!” he is quoted saying in the crowdfunding site.

Applicability to a noble cause tends to make a technology very powerful and revolutionary. That combined with nature’s secrets clearly induces a sense of awe. There are more wonders to expect in bionic 3D printing in the days to come. Let us know if you wish to know the science behind any specific bionic 3D printed structure in the comments.

Image credits: Mirror, Trendhunter

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  1. Scott says

    This is the type of advancement I have been waiting for with 3D printing.Its going to be a wonderful ew world with this technology.

  2. [email protected] says

    That is really something. So lucky for the Baby to have a great Dad.

  3. WirelessGuy says

    This is by far not the first story of hobbyist printed 3D prostetics. I think the real question here is, why exactly are prosthetic manufacturers unable to provide solutions here? There really is no rational excuse that fits.

    1. Italo Soares says

      I cant say for your country, but around here there is a HUGE bureaucracy, to be compliant with all the brazilian rules, you would need to spend about 300k USD. plus a yearly tax for renewing the licences and stuff, which makes it impossible or at least hard.

      So, printing for yourself its ok, you can do it. but for reselling as a company, its pretty challenging

    2. Chola Elangeswaran says

      Medical industry has a set of standardized guidelines for its manufacturing processes. As quoted by Italo Soares, all manufacturers have to comply by their country’s laws and standards. So when an existing prosthetic manufacturer changes his manufacturing process to 3D printing, he has to check whether it is certifiable by the official standardizing agencies (like ISO); big headache of course.

  4. Howzat says

    Great article for how 3D printing helps unite innovative ideas and solutions and make it available to the average person to build themselves. Relying on someone else to have come up with a solution and manufacturer it, if cost effective may take considerable time and cost!

  5. jvastine says

    Applications like this and other technological have a tremendous potential to benefit humanity, but at the same time, they also have the potential to be subverted and used against humanity. I urge everyone to look into the transhumanist agenda and become aware of the threat and danger that lurks behind these innovations in order to stop them and use theses things to help people and benefit all mankind.

    1. aDopeDwarf says

      You fellow user are a smart cookie. There is a transhumanistic agenda rolling down the snowy hillside. Point for that.
      The other user pointed out this is not s first, which it is not, but you know how everybody loves the good guy winning. I’m not sure how he figures 165k is enough for this business. I enjoy a good story, don’t get me wrong, but this is just fluff. I figure he’ll out grow it fairly quickly. He’s apparently tied into this some how; does he have leads coming out the arm or is it surgicaly neccessary every switch. Don’t know. Rant complete. :..:

  6. mperkins37 says

    Inspired by this tech on a daily basis.

  7. mperkins37 says

    this is the cool stuff, thanks for all the recent articles!

  8. David says

    Due to an accident some 30+ years ago my left arm while intact has only about 1/3 of the nerves running to it so I can only grip my fingers, just about everything else doesn’t work, including I cant feel most of it.

    I have a 3D printer (well I have a few) and I’m re-learning micro electronics to eventually build an, err for want of a better word exo-skeleton around my arm & shoulder to allow me to have some user in it again, as its pretty useless hanging out of its socket & giving me extremely bad (phantom) pains all the time.

    1. Chola Elangeswaran says

      Life sometimes tends to be very harsh. It’s really good to hear that you are looking for solutions through this technology. We wish you the best to develop an exoskeleton and overcome your pains. In case you are interested in collaborating with volunteers who could help you in this endeavor, you can use the Collaborate/Projects section under Forums and create a thread.

      1. David says

        Thanks, I will, as soon as I feel confident enough to make a start 🙂

  9. Richard Bynum says

    “Love knows no bounds”…It’s like the tale of a parent lifting a car off her child…When it comes to your own flesh and blood the limits can be broken. He wasn’t an engineer or designer but was able to teach himself how to build (3D print) a hydraulic prosthetic limb for his child. AMAZING! I bet that put fear into companies that make them for a living!! I love that 3D printers can be used to do these amazing things which can benefit so many people! And we’re still at the dawn of the capabilities of 3D printers! New filaments will be invented that can make new things possible along with new ways to 3D print that could open up new designs! I’m so glad I’m a part of it!!

  10. Darren says

    Truly shows how 3D printing is transforming the Health care industry in the best way.

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