[Marla]’s New Arm

It is especially rare to see coverage in the mainstream media that involves a hackspace, so it was a pleasant surprise yesterday when the local TV news where this is being written covered a story that not only highlighted a hackspace’s work, but did so in a very positive light.

[Marla Trigwell] is a young girl from Newbury, UK, who was born without a left hand. She had been provided with prosthetics, but they aren’t cheap, and as a growing child she quickly left them behind. Her parents researched the problem as modern parents do, and found out about recent advances in 3D-printed prosthetics lowering the bar to access for those like [Marla] born without a limb. Last month [Marla] received her new 3D-printed arm, and she did so courtesy of the work of [Andrew Lindsay] at Newbury and District Hackspace.

The arm itself is a Team Unlimbited arm version 2.0 Alfie edition, which can be found on Thingiverse with full sizing instructions for adjusting to the recipient in Customizer. As the video below the break shows, [Marla] appears very pleased with it, and is soon mastering its ability to grip objects.

This story is a fantastic demonstration of the ability of a hackspace to be a force for good, a true community organisation. We applaud [Andrew], NADHack, and all involved with it for their work, and hope that 3D printed arms will keep [Marla] with a constant supply of comfortable and affordable prosthetics as she grows up.

Prosthetic hands from the maker community have featured here before, and last summer we published a look at this expanding field.

32 thoughts on “[Marla]’s New Arm

  1. As a daddy of a daughter and designer of mechanics and owner of a 3D printer I got some pretty specific feelings seeing this video. Wow. such a happy girl is so rewarding…

  2. “what are you going to do with it?”
    “SCRATCH!!!”

    This can be a very real problem for most of us with TWO hands. I can’t imagine not being able to access yet more parts of my body for scratches. The torture.

    1. You ever need to scratch your back? Do you use a tool? Works the same for folks with one hand. I know – I have one hand.

      Please see below for my response to this toy. This is CRIPPLING this young girl. Can it survive being hit with a hammer?

      Name me *one* thing you need two hands for. Answer: hammer and chisel – make a tool that handles that case. For everything else, she is perfectly capable of doing what she wants the way she is without a crutch like this toy.

    1. It looks like she might have a full set of finger tips on the end of her wrist. If she can move them at all she won’t have to wait that long as they could be used to control servo activated fingers down the line.

  3. Its so great to see the hacker community comming up with ways to bring down the cost of prosthetic limbs and make them accessible to people who would otherwise not have access to such a beneficial technology.
    That said, I wonder how long it will be before the makers of the big expensive things (the ones that go through all the expensive certification at the FDA and elsewhere) will lobby for new laws that make these cheaper uncertified devices illegal?

  4. I am slightly conflicted about this. She is obviously happy about her new arm, but isn’t it also a constant reminder of how she is different from other people. I guess we are all special in a way and I am sure artificial limbs will eventually advance to maybe even surpass human performance. At this stage, however, it still feels like a poor substitute.

    On a slightly different note, we totally need those back to the future nike shoe lances. That way she can put on and off her own arm all by herself.

    1. She will always be reminded she is different. How she responds depends on her parents. And you are right – it *is* a poor substitute for many reasons. She is fine if only left alone.

  5. I was born without a left hand. My parents *deliberately* ignored it. As a result, I can do whatever I want – I am an engineer, I build houses for a hobby, I am a maker.

    I *really* wish people would stop “helping the poor crippled children” like this. The kid is not crippled, she just has one hand. Do *not* project your fears on kids like this.

    Simply put, you are forcing a CRUTCH on the kid, NOT A TOOL. You are CRIPPLING her. If this breaks, can she do what she wants to? If not, you have CRIPPLED her. If she can do what she wants, then WHY DO THIS?

    There are times when a tool is needed. In the spirit of contributing, see my “fuzzy stump” http://www.instructables.com/id/Fuzzy-Stump-Socket-Prosthetic/ . You can hit this with a hammer. It costs less than $20 and takes a few hours to completely make. And… I made it at Quelab (dot net) – the Albuquerque hacker space.

    Otherwise STOP CRIPPLING KIDS TO MAKE YOURSELVES FEEL GOOD. My parents would have told the makers to stuff it.

    1. I can get your point.

      It seems that argument has been going on for a while for deaf child too, should their parents get them an implant which will probably lead them not to learn sign language.

      It also feel a bit awkward how news providers love those tear generating stories. Barnum’s not so far…

    2. I understand that. I have a facial thing that is very obvious to almost everyone who has met me but which does not hold me back except in a few mostly unimportant ways. There is surgery to “correct” it, but it doesn’t “fix” what I don’t have. A lot of parents rush to push their kids into it without asking the kids, I see it as unnecessary and have refused it ever since I was 8 years old. When two of us with the same thing meet we notice each other, and have “that” conversation, and ocasionally I meet someone who admits to me that they had it “corrected”. Sometimes it was because they sought it out, other times it was because their parents whisked them to the doctor as very small kids so they could have their “perfect” baby.

      I come away from this with a very important lesson: ask the kid not the parents. It wasn’t my hackspace that did this one, but if it was then I’d make damn sure the request came from the kid.

      One thing I will say is this, at least a plastic arm isn’t permanent like a piece of surgery. If [Marla] doesn’t like it as she gets older, she can always chuck it away.

    3. i have a friend that lost an arm, a missing limb is far more complicated than you make it out to be, i will bet i can find things most with one hand cant do, just as i encountered situations i couldn’t conquer myself when i had a broken back, my friend had the exact same experience with his lost arm, now take one of my other friends who was born without a thumb and there is a marked difference in how much of a handicap it is to him, usually not even an inconvenience, yet even he still has issues related to it every now and again.

      it is as damaging(if not more) to these young individuals to hear that the aids they want or find helpful are crippling them, especially when it isnt based on more than what seems to be a general concept.
      i get what you are going for, i think, in the ASD community there is plenty of it as well, but it is based in something other than reality, in reality people are different and you have no way of knowing what will or wont help any specific individual, unless one is intimately involved in that specific persons case.

      1. First, kids adopt the attitude of their parents. If the parent thinks it is a handicap, so will the kid. If the parents ignore it, the kid will not think it is a handicap – specifically if the parents allow the kid to figure out how to do something.

        My parents were not cruel about it, and they got me a prosthesis when I asked for one. My dad made a simple thing that replaced the hook to hold onto a bow. In that case, it was a tool. I tried wearing a prosthesis to “fit in” – it did not work. In 5th grade, I got into a fight. My dad got the call. He asked who started the fight – the other kid. He asked why they were calling him instead of the parents of the other kid. They also said I had hit the other kid with my arm. He responded with what were they expecting I was going to use? I got rid of it because it handicapped me && I recognized it was a dangerous weapon.

        I am really interested in what you think cannot be done with one hand. We are tool makes and users. I modify my statement – it also depends on what “is left” of the other arm – elbow? Off below the shoulder? etc. I agree that is part of the issue. However – look at the Thunder Ghod – he had an arm ripped off at the shoulder. Granted, he had the resources, but he is a professional drummer && he worked with some engineers to give him what he wanted. The dude Rocks! For a living!

        The issue is attitude. If your friend thinks he is handicapped, he is. If he thinks “I have a new hobby”, he is not. Same with this little girl and her parents.

        I had a buddy in Portland. He had a leg ripped off (above the knee) in a motorcycle accident. (Half of all leg amputations, per year in the US, are from motor cycle accidents.) He is lying in the hospital, thinking what do I do now? He decided to take up snow skiing. At one point, he was in the top 10 of crip skiers and taught at a Mt Hood ski resort.

        I can see where a broken back would cause issues. I also recognize mobility is more important than dexterity. I was married two weeks and I broke my left knee. A wheelchair was interesting. I looked like the hunchback. (If I had to use one for a longer time, there are other wheelchair solutions.) So were crutches. I lashed one onto my left arm. I was slow, but it worked.

        Please try to come up with things that *cannot* be done with one hand, or what your friend missing a thumb cannot do. I bet I have already done them. I really am interested in your response.

        1. Wow.. This is a minefield!

          First let me say I 100% agree that everyone ‘disabled’ or not should be treated the same and brought up to believing that they can do/accomplish anything if they try hard enough/put in the work (unfortunately we know this is not always true)
          However it is important to observe the difference between treating everyone the same and adapting expectations to a person’s abilities.

          You requested “Please try to come up with things that *cannot* be done with one hand” I notice that you highlighted the word ‘cannot’ – and I feel that that is important as it is very definitive, I would like to highlight easily, efficiently, safely and ‘and’ i.e. *safely* stirring a pot on a hot stove, *easily* cutting a shape from a piece of paper with scissors, *efficiently* putting an item in a fridge and hold someone’s hand *and* carry a bag of shopping, the list is pretty much endless! and I really don’t want to start rimming off 100s of examples, but also already mention in this article is scratching, and you yourself published an instructable for your “Fuzzy stump socket prosthetic”” for holding a chisel/punch/etc.

          I think/feel you should target you anger at people who treat disabled persons as inferior to ‘fully able bodied’ persons. You seem to be keen to lament people for creating prosthetics, however have an instructable for your own and as far as I can see justify it by saying it can be hit by a hammer, I agree that the current 3D printed prosthetics are poor substitutes but development and progress must start somewhere.

          To me you seem very angry about the subject (this sort of anger I have personal experience off) and think it is important to see the difference between people wanting to help and your negative experiences of other peoples prejudices.

          I wish you well
          Dys

          1. Quote: I would like to highlight easily, efficiently, safely and ‘and’ i.e. *safely* stirring a pot on a hot stove, *easily* cutting a shape from a piece of paper with scissors, *efficiently* putting an item in a fridge and hold someone’s hand *and* carry a bag of shopping, the list is pretty much endless! /quote

            You are making a fundamental mistake: you are assuming that I, as a person with one hand, are going to do these activities *just like you*. Nope. That is all part of “having a hobby” attitude. Call it 75% of activities I would do just like you. I would do another 24.5% differently, and the 0.5% I would create a tool for.

            Pot on the stove: the pot is not going to move. same as you
            Cutting paper: if I have another arm (which I do – I have about 0.5 of my left forearm): hold the paper on the table as I cut.
            If I did not have another arm: anchor the paper to the table with a weight, and cut. Move them as needed.
            OR use a sharp knife
            Fridge: hold the item in my hand with several fingers, open the fridge with one finger, insert, close
            OR: open fridge, insert item, close
            Groceries w/ child: use a leash on the child. Carry bag. (or use a small cart)
            Carry box and open door: hold box against doorjam with body, open door, hold box, enter, close door with foot.
            OR: put box down, open door, pickup box, enter, close door with foot.
            Peeling Potatoes: Board, nail. Impale potato. use peeler.
            OR: (I have an arm) hold potato against body, peel.

            No issue with safety. No real “loss of efficiency”. Part of the “hobby” aspects is thinking through the sequence. Yes, I might do it differently than you, but so what? I can get the job done in roughly the same amount of time as you, maybe faster.

            When I design a PCB, I include holes to solder berg headers for scope probes. I use a panavise to hold the PCB when I solder. I use a lab notebook with a spiral binding so I can lay it flat.

            Hammer and chisel falls into the 1% – I created a tool that lets me do what I want to. We are tool makers and users. I included the “fuzzy stump” because if I am going to rail against these 3d-printed “toys”, I should propose an alternative. I think my tool is far superior to these toys. It is rugged, robust, cheap, easy to make, and very adaptable. I have prototypes that allow my to easily and ruggedly mount things like vice grips so I can do forging. Or, mount a ring with a quick release to allow kayaking. Or attach a bow. Or …

            (BTW, I don’t need this for hammer and nail. I have forgotten the number of hundreds of pounds of nails I have hammered in. I have blood in over 50 houses as part of Habitat and mission trips. I drive a stick whenever possible. I have rock climbed – lead 5.7. Water and snow skied. Played football in high school – first string defensive line. Racquetball, Biked. not looking for pity or praise.)

            I want these “do good” people to not project their fears of loosing a hand onto kids with one hand. The kids are not handicapped – they just have one hand. These 3d toy “hands” cripple the kids. A crutch instead of a tool.

          2. As comment depth is too great for hackaday – I’m responding to my own comment,

            I have no doubt your right I bet I would be amazed at the solutions and techniques that you utilise on a daily and autonomous basis. I never suggested that you couldn’t do any of these tasks or come up with alternatives, only that these tasks are easier accomplished with two hands.
            As stated before you were (correctly) brought up believing that your disability was no hindrance, and thus have these beliefs, and I admire this attitude it is however an unarguable fact that doing certain tasks becomes ‘simpler’ with two hands (heck I would love three hands.. especially when soldering) if it were not so I’m sure evolution would have stopped wasting energy growing the extra limb.
            So I would hope we could agree on a wide ranging statement as such “doing certain tasks becomes ‘simpler’ with two hands” bringing that discussion to an end.

            That aside I get that you would be anti prosthetic in general, the current examples are pitiful and I could see that in many (most) circumstances nothing or captain hook’s hook would be better, They (to a casual observer) seem that they might be useful for one or two applications and a hindrance the rest of the time.

            I think it will be a long time before anything that is universally considered ‘good’ will be developed but don’t think that justifies your attitude to those trying to develop solutions, even if the recipient of the prosthetic in this article only uses it to scratch her other elbow a few times and leaves it in a drawer forever more I feel it’s a worthy endeavour. Calling the people involved in creating this “do gooders” only goes to show your own prejudices.

            Feel free to respond, I will however leave this here as I feel I’ve tried to put across my feelings and accept that you are entitled to you own.
            Take care, and try not to spill anymore blood with those nails ;)
            Dys

          3. Quote: it is however an unarguable fact that doing certain tasks becomes ‘simpler’ with two hands /quote

            The real issue is can one be reasonably functional and efficient. The answer is yes. This proved by not just me, but tens of thousands of people. There are roughly 25 thousand kids born *every* year without a limb in the US. Most of the people I encounter in Albuquerque (and other places I have lived) do not use or need a prosthesis, and somehow we manage to be safe and “efficient”. Everything else is meaningless.

            Adults who lose a limb do one of two things. They either become crippled, or they have a new hobby. The crippled become that way because of fear. The ones with a new hobby do fine.

            I sense the “do gooders” having a great fear of what would happen if they lost a hand. My questions to them is: which way would *you* go? What could you *not* do that you can now? I am not asking for an answer. I want those reading this to really ponder this.

            … bandit

    4. Marla asked for the prosthetic based upon some she’d seen at a Reach event. Sometime she wears it, sometimes she doesn’t. The choice is left to her. The 3D printed arm is no more a crutch than your own prosthetic; it’s a tool that’s available to her in the same way that a knife and a fork are tools available to me.

      1. Stuart: From context it appears you are her parent.

        I am hesitant to tell a parent how to raise his child. However, I would respectfully council you to be conscious of the difference between tools and crutches. I would also respectfully suggest you ponder what my parents did (ignore it), because it *worked*. I find it interesting that those around me (family, friends) *forget* I only have one hand. My wife of 26 years recently mentioned she cannot even remember which hand I have or don’t have. It becomes a non-issue.

        The issue I have is the people who want to force 3d printed “hands” onto the “poor crippled children” without considering the consequences. They are not handicapped, they just have one hand.

        I must admit it is interesting for me to watch someone else with one hand who do not use prosthesis’ – they move just like I do. They also do *not* consider themselves to be handicapped or at any disadvantage.

        A counter example. When I was in high school, a classmate also hade one hand. He *always* wore a prosthesis with a hand, even playing racquetball – and he was a great player. But he was *ashamed* of having one hand. The one time I asked him – privately – he got *very* embarrassed and walked away. I knew this was because of his parents. I have had conversations with prosthetic makers who have to make house calls to fix them because the people are too embarrassed to leave the house.

        I would respectfully encourage you to have your daughter do everything other girls her age do – without a prosthesis of any sort. That way, no matter what happens in her life, she is functional. She has a hobby that will force her to be a problem solver – a useful skill no matter what she does.

        I am sure you have thought about social issues as she grows older. Kids will be cruel, but other kids will be kind. If she is comfortable with herself, she will do much better. A sense of humor is critical. For example, she gets to do everything single-handed. She is ambidextrous – she uses one hand just as well as one hand. (I have a “second-hand” shop filled with (sic) off-handed puns.)

        I know you will enjoy watching your daughter grow and thrive (and remember her teen years will end :^) Success to y’all. … bandit (BTW, my name comes from the nickname for a slot machine – a “one-armed bandit”)

  6. how useful is it if it grips based on the elbow angle? its maybe more useful if you are used to it but I can imagine passing things might turn into throwing them easily. I wonder if someone with this kind of limitation on one side might start adopting actions with the other arm too.
    pretty horrible if he thought it was so great a gift he waited until Christmas to give it to her. unless it was coincidence he finished it in the holidays.

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