AMS Spring 2023

Charlie Egan’s Arm – 3D Printing Used to Make A Little Suffolk Boy A ‘Superhero’

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Little Charlie Egan was born without a right arm below his elbow. It was tough on Charlie as he was unable to do certain things and was constantly bombarded with questions about his missing limb.

Photo by David Crump. DailyMail.com

Charlie and Penny Egan decorate their Christmas tree. Photo by David Crump. DailyMail.com

But his mother and father, Penny and David Egan, got in touch a couple of months ago with E-Nable, and that got the ball rolling to give Charlie a hand, and in fact, a ‘superhero’ arm to go with it.

Ivan Owen of E-Nable

Ivan Owen of E-Nable

Penny Egan visited the E-Nable website, sent them photos of Charlie and a series of measurements which would be used to design his prosthetic, and waited as the family was put in touch with a Londoner with a 3D printer.  The result was a prosthetic arm with a ‘Spiderman’ theme specially designed for him in red and blue.

Charlie’s Mom said it’s made a world of difference to her son. She added that even though he’s “managed really well” up until now, her son can feel more like the other children, now that he’s got his new arm.

“It will change his life. He has to deal with negative comments about people asking what happened to his arm, and staring at him every day of his life,” Penny Egan told the Daily Mail. “Instead of saying what happened, now people say, ‘Wow, you have a superhero arm.’ Charlie is thrilled with it. He can’t stop smiling.”

While it’s not the first 3D printed arm prostheses from the group, Charlie’s arm is thought to be the first printed and in use in England, and is certainly a life changer.  While we are used to seeing dozens of hands 3D printed by the group at E-Nable, arms are not as prevalent.

Penny and Charlie Egan

Penny and Charlie Egan

Charlie’s story begins with a collaboration by a prop maker from the USA, Ivan Owen, and a carpenter from South Africa, Richard Van As. The pair were 10,000 miles apart in geography, but they came together to create a prosthetic hand device for a small child in South Africa which could be fabricated locally on a 3D printer. It’s all a result of the project to create a 3D printable, open source design of a mechanical prosthetic which was originally put out as the “Robohand” in 2012. While E-Nable is not officially affiliated with the Robohand Project in South Africa, which Van As is working with, they say they do build off of their work and that of others. If you would like to purchase a Robohand, they ask that you visit www.robohand.net.

What began as a project by a couple of guys aimed at helping one child in need is now a world-wide movement of engineers, 3D printing technicians, occupational therapists, university professors, designers, parents, families, artists, students and teachers who are 3D printing fingers and hands – and now arms – for children.

The designers at E-Nable offer assistance and design skills – at no cost – to aid those interested in taking on individual cases to help custom design around different shaped hands or needs.

Do you know anyone who’s life has been changed by a 3D printed device?  Let us know what you think about the work E-Nable is doing in the Charlie Egan’s 3D Printed Arm forum thread at 3DPB.com.

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