Meet the worlds youngest 3D hand printer! Making prosthetics for kids with limb differences

PICS BY SARAH HAIGHT / CATERS NEWS

Meet the incredible four-year-old who could be the WORLD’S YOUNGEST 3D HAND PRINTER – making prosthetics for kids with limb differences just like him.

Cameron Haight from Charlotte in North Carolina, USA, was born with amniotic band syndrome, a condition where his digits were fused and twisted together in the womb.

Surgeons have performed over 15 operations, mostly on his clubbed right hand where all fingers other than one were joined together.

Six months ago, when Cameron received his first 3D printed hand with the hope of riding a bike for the first time, his mum Sarah, 31, immediately noticed a change in her son

Instead of being embarrassed and hiding his deformed hand beneath his clothing, he was showing off his new ‘cool robot hand’ to others.

Overwhelmed by the change it made to her son’s life, she wanted to empower other kids by making 3D hands and now Cameron is obsessed too.

Despite being only four-years-old, he’s already helped to create nine 3D hands, printed and assemble each intricate part and could be the world’s youngest person to do it.

Sarah Haight, a full-time mum-of-three, said: “We started off printing the parts for Cameron’s hands after he broke some of them and since then we’ve been making full hands.

“He’s only four-years-old, but he’s gotten really good at it, he goes on the printer, finds the files, sizes, scales and prints them, then we assemble them – it’s really fun to watch him in action.

“He’s the youngest one we’ve heard of and he loves putting them together, watching the printer work away.

“The parts can take between six and 12 hours to print but he will sit and watch it sometimes for a full six hours or more.

“Whenever we’re printing parts for other children he’s constantly asking whether it’s for a boy or a girl, what colour they want and really enjoys it all.

“Then when we take the prosthetics to a limb difference meeting, he explains how to use them to all the kids and gets excited showing them how the mechanism works.

“Since he’s started making 3D hands I’ve noticed a huge difference in his outlook and everything.

“Before whenever we went outside he would cover his hand, no matter how much we encouraged him and was shy about it, especially if we asked him to show someone.

“Having a 3d hand has taken all the stigma away from his limb difference and given him a positive spin on it, now he really enjoys showing off his differences.

“Knowing my little boy is now making hands that are changing other people’s lives, just like they did with his is just incredible.”

PICS BY SARAH HAIGHT / CATERS NEWS

After Cameron was born, surgeons have been operating on him every six to nine months, in the hopes of separating his fingers and toes.

Sarah added: “His right hand was what they call a club hand, all apart from one of his fingers and thumb were banded and twisted together.

“They were all clumped together in a big first with only his pinky finger sticking out.

“Because the webbing around his fingers is so tightly wound together, he has needed constant surgeries so that he can have more mobility and spread his fingers further apart.”

In public, his mum has noticed strangers reacting differently towards him because his hands and feet hadn’t developed fully in the womb.

She added: “You get looks constantly, everyone wants to see a new-born, but after seeing him they had a look of horror.

“One lady came running over to look at him and shouted, ‘Oh my god, what happened to him?’

“There were times when I wasn’t in an emotional place to keep explaining his condition, so I kept him at home with me.”

After discovering 3D prosthetics online and Cameron trying out his first one at a camp for children with limb differences earlier this year, Sarah contacted charity Enabling the Future.

They paired her up with volunteers who were making the hands for children and printed her son an orange and blue one after Finding Nemo – one of Cameron’s favourite films.

 

PICS BY SARAH HAIGHT / CATERS NEWS

Sarah said: “He was over the moon and so excited after receiving a hand of his own, it was all he talked for days.

“With his 3D hand, he’s been able to grab the handlebars on his bike, use a small water pistol all summer and has even been hanging up Christmas lights with his dad.

“Now when people stare, they are more like to ask ‘how he got his cool robot hand’ and it opens a line of communication for him to explain his condition better than before.”

Since then, Sarah and Cameron have been making 3D hands for others and deliver them to their local limb difference meet-up for other children with mobility issues.

She said: “He designs his own hands too, we’ve printed one in the colour of the Carolina Panthers, his favourite sports team.

“Now we make hands for others, he’s always wondering when the parts will be ready to assemble and just can’t wait to make more.”

Enabling the Future is a grassroots, volunteer organised movement that provides 3D printed hands and arms to people with upper limb differences all over the world.

They provide tutorials, resources, instructions and blueprints to produce the hands for others and actively are encouraging volunteers.

Jen Owen, a e-NABLE community volunteer, said: “Cameron is one of the youngest I have seen who is doing this with a parent and gifting them to other children.

“It is always very impressive to see the younger ones helping to assemble the hands.

“They are fun to build, when the hand parts are printed and ready to assemble, it is much like a giant Lego kit and project.

“When they are done assembling it – they have not just made a fun project that will sit on the shelf or in the toybox, but something that can actually help another person who might need some assistance with activities that are easier to do with two hands that grip.”

“When a family can learn how to assemble their own devices and then get inspired to turn around and create them for others…that is the perfect scenario.

“It allows the hand build to be a family event where the child can participate in making their own hand which often results in them using it more.

PICS BY SARAH HAIGHT / CATERS NEWS

“Also, when a part breaks or malfunctions, they are not reliant on waiting for a volunteer maker to fix it for them as they can repair it themselves.”

The 3D hands, which can be built for less than $25 (20.00GBP), offer an alternative to parents who cannot afford or see limitations in obtaining a full prosthetic.

Jen added: “.) Most of these children do not have any other option or rejected their traditional prosthetic devices due to them being too heavy or unsightly and because they outgrow their devices so quickly.

“This gives parents an option to have a basic grasp hand for under $25 and it can be scaled up and reprinted as they grow.

“These hands also seem to be very good at improving self confidence in the children who get them.

“Some of them are bullied at school or they tend to hide their limb difference away but once they get their ‘superhero’ hand or ‘robot hand’ – they seem to gain more self confidence.”

To get involved or for more info visit: http://www.enablingthefuture.org