Annika Emmert, 10 year-old dolphin enthusiast, was in for a treat at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida on Thursday morning. She got to pet Winter the dolphin, star of the movie “Dolphin Tale.” Annika, who was born without part of her right arm, didn’t think the day could get any better. Then, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, the actress who also starred with Winter in the movie, set a cooler down next to the girl. Annika peered inside, expecting to find fish to feed to the dolphin. Instead, what she saw made her eyes tear up- her own custom-made, 3-D printed prosthetic right arm.
3-D printed prosthetic is remarkable in a few ways.
The 3-D printed prosthetic arm given to Annika is controlled by her own muscles and nervous system. Perhaps the coolest thing about it is the fact that the limb can “grow” with her. Once she outgrows the arm at its current dimensions, it will be easy to 3-D print bigger pieces such as longer fingers, all while keeping the electronics inside the same. The arm cost about $350 in materials and took around 40 hours to produce, but was given to the little girl for free by the company that made it, Limbitless Solutions.
Limbitless gives all limbs away for free.
Limbitless Solutions is a nonprofit organization that is both staffed and led by University of Central Florida students. The company gives every limb it makes away, free of charge, and even shares its blueprints and software with other companies in the hopes that they will use technology. According to Alfred Manero, the executive director of Limbitless, staff members decided to meet at the aquarium knowing that Annika loved “Dolphin Tale.”
Winter, the dolphin, has also benefitted from prosthetics.
The finned friend Annika made yesterday has her own prosthetic limb. Winter was found in 2005, when she was only a baby. She was tangled up in a crab trap, which cut off circulation to her tail. Winter was taken to the aquarium after, but it was too late to save the tail. Although the tail given to her isn’t a 3-D printed prosthetic, it is also remarkable in its own right as being the only artificial tail ever made for a dolphin.