All the 3D-printed fashion in the world can’t amount to one little garment created by researchers at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children and 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys.
The garment is called the Wrex, and the wearer is a four-year-old girl named Emma Lavelle. Emma drew a rough lot in life, being born with arthrogryposis, a congenital disease affecting joints that usually leads to the underdevelopment of muscles. For Emma, arthrogryposis meant not being able to move her arms on her own. Wrex is a robotic exoskeleton that allows Emma freedom of movement — giving her mobility in her arms while remaining light enough for her to wear around comfortably.
The Wrex was originally fixed to a large metal stand, which would require the wearer to stay rooted to one spot while using the device. The problem of mobility was solved by the possibilities that 3D printing uniquely opens up. The robotics were handled by the researchers, but the Wrex required a lightweight, comfortable exoskeleton in order to be practical. A Stratasys 3D printer equipped with ABS plastic was used to print a carefully designed exoskeleton customized exactly to Emma’s body. The fact that 3D printing allows for this kind of detailed customization in a relatively simple and cost-effective way is something that could have a huge impact on prosthetics in the future, as well.
For now, Emma and her parents are enjoying the possibilities that the Wrex is opening up.