Annika Emmert was born with amniotic banding, resulting in a shorter right arm and a hand that did not form properly. Her arm was shaped at a 45 degree angle, requiring surgery to straighten it before her first birthday in order to prepare the limb for an eventual prosthetic device. Today, at ten years old, Annika is an extremely active child – her passions include soccer and singing. She also shares a special bond with Winter – the aquatic star of the Dolphin Tale movies. Winter the Dolphin who lives at Clearwater Aquarium in Tampa, Florida, lost her tail and fluke to a crab trap accident and now swims with a prosthetic tail.
“I thought it was pretty cool because we are all missing something,” says Annika. “Winter and I are both different in many ways and that’s what makes us alike and special.”
A few months ago, Annika’s mother, KaRon reached out to Limbitless Solutions, led by Albert Manero at the University of Central Florida to explore the possibility of getting Annika a 3D printed bionic arm. Manero first encountered Stratasys 3D printing came when he was in high school in Tampa, Florida. “I was in an engineering program and they had a Stratasys Dimension 3D Printer. Because of this and my experience in the engineering lab there I knew what 3D printing could do. When we started the Limbitless Solutions project here at UCF, I went into our manufacturing lab, and they also had a Stratasys Dimension 3D Printer. So we used it to create a low cost solution that eliminates the time and expense of traditional manufacturing techniques like CNC milling.”
The chosen material for the Stratasys 3D printed Limbitless arm is ABSplus thermoplastic. It provides the durability active kids demand. It can also easily be painted, which is crucial because each child is offered a custom design.
“The biggest challenge that we had for Annika is that she had a longer residual arm than anyone we have worked with before,” explains Nicole Bizet, Logistics Coordinator, Limbitless Solutions. “We had to modify the solution we had been using up till then and reduce the size of the electronics housing. The advantage of Stratasys 3D printing is that it allows us to make any shape we want so for Annika we were able to adapt our basic design to her unique natural geometry.”
There Must Be Something in the Water
The only thing that could make getting your new arm even better is getting it from your favorite film star. On a visit to the Clearwater Aquarium in Tampa to meet Winter, Annika was asked to reach into a cooler to get a snack for the dolphin. Instead of a fish, she pulled out her brand new Stratasys 3D printed Limbitless arm.
How 3D Printing is Better Preparing Engineering Students for Real World Challenges
Dr. Thomas O’Neal, Associate Vice President of Research & Commercialization, UCF, agrees about the power of Stratasys 3D printing to make engineering practical and tangible. “Industry wants our students to be ready for commercial enterprises when they leave here. This is a perfect example where university, industry, technology and philanthropy come together to create a compelling story that really connects what we try to do in engineering – creating things that change people’s lives forever. If we are going to base our economy on innovation, these links need to be strengthened and the projects students are working on have to become real viable products in the marketplace.”
This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil)