LaChappelle is a young engineer who is using 3D printing to develop high-tech prosthetics for amputees with his company Unlimited Tomorrow.
Momo Sutton, a 10-year-old girl, has been using a basic prosthetic since the age of four. However, engineer Easton LaChappelle made her dreams come true when he presented her with a 3D printed arm and hand.
To get to this point, LaChappelle spent six years researching and testing robotic hands. He’s now been able to scan Momo’s left arm and 3D print a working replica on her right side. The design even has matching fingernails.
The engineer spent his teens tinkering and making. By the time he was 16, he’d bought his first $500 3D printer (splitting the cost with his parents). He printed a robotic hand which the wearer could move based on brain wave signals emitted from an EEG headset.
LaChappelle entered his project into a science fair and here, for the first time, he met someone who used a prosthetic arm. He explains that the young girl’s prosthetic gave him an “aha moment”. He adds: “This thing is $80,000, and I made this arm that’s better than this for a couple hundred dollars in my bedroom.”
Unlimited Tomorrow’s Future includes 3D Printing
3D printed limbs aren’t a novelty anymore. Thanks to initiatives like the open source prostheses from e-Nable (All3DP reported), they are becoming more and more commonplace. Also, LaChappelle took is now making this process available for others with his new company, Unlimited Tomorrow. He hopes to use 3D printing to drive down the cost of buying a prosthetic and offer high-tech options to amputees.
After the school science fair, LaChappelle went on to be featured in magazines such as Popular Science. As well as this, he won a global science prize, a meeting with President Obama and a summer internship with NASA.
Soon after, LaChapelle’s work caught the attention of employees at Microsoft. He was invited to their headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
He began working with 20 other makers and engineers at the Advanced Prototyping Center. Together, they developed the prosthetic for Momo using 3D printing.
The final design uses three electrodes which are attached to the muscles in Momo’s upper arm. A feedback loop develops and Momo can then flex a muscle which moves the hand. The idea is for the design to be more natural than her previous prosthetics.
LaChappelle adds: “I really didn’t imagine that what I was creating at 14 would impact someone’s life like this… I’m just a young kid trying to do good with technology, so it’s really encouraging to see all of this happening. Momo is going to be the first of a lot of people.”
To find out more about LaChappelle and his work, head over to the Microsoft feature about the young maker.