Skip to content

Idea2Product prints prosthetic “Angel Arms” exoskeleton

  • by
Arianna Fischer

Arianna Fischer
Photo by Barbara Fischer

Arianna Fischer is like most 8-year-old girls. She spends time with her loving family, and enjoys playing with dolls in her dollhouse. These were normal activities for Arianna, until her muscles gradually weakened due to Spinal Muscular Atrophy. SMA is similar to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in adults, and Arianna now requires a ventilator to breathe and is wheelchair dependent. Her limited finger and elbow movement makes it difficult for her to pick up even lightweight dolls, and she desperately wishes to play again.

Printing at I2P

Printing the Angel Arms at I2P

The 3D printing technologies of Idea2Product have made that dream come true. By 3D printing a support system for Arianna’s arms, the lab was able to create a durable and strong exoskeleton. The exoskeleton, appropriately named Angel Arms, is made of a polycarbonate plastic, which reduces their weight. With help from Angel Arms L.L.C., a graduate level design course based out of Grand Valley State University, Idea2Product was able to process specific plans for Arianna’s height and weight, and print and test the Angel Arms in house.

Each Angel Arm has four joints, and uses springs and latex-free bands to maintain proper tension and allow for fine-tuning movements. Combined with the lightweight plastics, the device seemed simple, but Angel Arms L.L.C. reported that the exoskeleton improves normal range of motion by an average of 50%. This improvement has allowed Arianna to play again. “We so appreciate everyone that is helping Arianna to gain the use of her arms,” Arianna’s mother, Barbara Fischer, said. “SMA will continue to take away her physical strength but not her spirit.”

I2P's completed arms

I2P’s completed Angel Arms
Photo by Ray Huff