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Let’s Make it Happen

Students and graduates team up to 3D print prosthetic arm for a friend after car accident

This summer, I was fishing in CDA and I ran into a buddy of mine that I grew up with and hadn’t seen in years. I asked him how his family was doing and he mentioned that his little brother had lost his arm in a car accident. He said they were looking into prosthetic limbs, but they were very expensive. They started a GoFundMe page, but it was looking tough.

The next weekend I went camping with some friends, one of which was going to school to become a prosthetics specialist. She mentioned a company called E-nable prosthetics that had open source designs for prosthetic limbs to 3D print.

My friend and colleague Marshall Townsend, had just gotten a personal 3D printer. I called him and asked if he would be interested in a project, to which he replied “Of course, let’s make it happen!” Once we had the measurements for Alex’s new arm, I sent Marshall the files and he spent a week printing out all of the pieces. We finished the arm done about 2 weeks for less than $50.

When Alex drove up from McCall to pick up his new arm, we had there was a lot of apprehension around whether or not this arm was going to work. The arm has a mechanical mechanism that uses the bending at the elbow to pull the fingers closed, and with a few minor adjustments Alex was able to pick up a cup from the counter. The look on his face was of pure joy and something I’m sure neither Marshall nor myself will ever forget in our careers as engineers.

Since then, I have been keeping up with Alex and he has been using the arm at work to pick up and hold objects, as well as even riding a bike. He says, “I know it’s not an ultimate replacement, but with this I can start practicing teaching my brain to work with an arm again.”

Article by Jake Miller, M.S.M.E Graduate Student

Alex Montes (left to right), Jacob Miller and Marshall Townsend pose for a photo with Alex’s new 3D printed prosthetic arm.
Alex Montes (left to right), Jacob Miller and Marshall Townsend pose for a photo with Alex’s new 3D printed prosthetic arm.
3D printed prosthetic hand closeup
3D printed prosthetic hand close up

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