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Health Beat: Helping Hannah: 3D printer to the rescue

Health Beat: Helping Hannah: 3D printer to the rescue

WILMINGTON, Del. - Children with neuromuscular diseases, like muscular dystrophy, have a hard time moving their arms and doing basic things like eating, playin, or hugging their loved ones.

Now, a new 3D-printed exoskeleton is helping these kids move in ways they never thought possible.

During her fifth month of pregnancy, Jennifer Mohn was told to prepare for the worst for her unborn daughter.

"They told us to make arrangements for her," said Jennifer Mohn, Hannah's mom.

Baby Hannah Faith survived, but she was born with a list of health conditions, including arthrogryposis, a disease that affects muscle strength.

"She was just really unable to move," Mohn said.

Four years later she's making great strides, thanks in part to 3D-printed arms, known as the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton, or WREX.

Each WREX is constructed of lightweight plastic and rubber bands and can be custom made overnight with the use of a 3D printer.

"If you do the geometry right and you put the bands in the correct place, you can get this floating sensation for a kid," said Dr. Tariq Rahman, senior research engineer, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.

It's allowing kids like Hannah the ability to move their arms and even flick a rubber band.

"To see her have the ability to reach her arms out, to reach out and grab something is just a really amazing feeling for a mom," Mohn explained.

Since a 3D printer is used, the customized exoskeletons can easily be made to grow with the child.

The WREX can also be used by children with other neuromuscular diseases or by adults with stroke and spinal cord injury.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary

DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. Tariq Rahman about using 3D printers to customize exoskeletons

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