Home / Wearables / Teen Uses 3D Printer to Make Robotic Prosthetic Arms for $500

Teen Uses 3D Printer to Make Robotic Prosthetic Arms for $500


It seems that 3D printers can be used to create just about anything, from fully functional guns to super skittish robots. And 3D printers could be the solution for amputees in developing countries too, thanks to the work of 17-year-old Easton LaChappelle from Colorado.

Looking to some free online resources, he has used a 3D printer to create a fully functional prosthetic arm and hand that comes with robotic technology. The hand can grip and hold things; even cooler, the 3D-printed robotic prosthetic arm can cost less than $500 to make. By comparison, a state of the art prosthetic worn by a seven year old girl he met at the 2011 Colorado State science fair costs about $80,000.


The 3D printed arm by LaChappelle can be controlled using an EEG headband, which measures brain waves. The user will likely have to get used to the interface and there will be a training period, but that’s pretty amazing for less than 500 bucks. The actual movement of the arm and fingers is done through a combination of fishing line and servo motors.

The Colorado teenager showed off his 3D printed arm at TEDxMileHigh. You can watch the embedded video below for his demonstration.




About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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  1. This is really cool. I hope this project moves fast before any government regulation gets in the way of this innovation.

  2. angryenglishman

    im going to print a 3d girlfriend with all the right bits lmao

  3. 3D printing a gun or many other things is just a gimmick because it all depends on the materials and construction so its always inferior to the real thing. You honestly think this arm is equivalent to one made by professionals? I doubt it.

    • Konohamaru's friend

      REALLY? One single bullet can’t kill someone? How about a backpack full of one-use pistols?

      Grow up and realize that real life isn’t like your video games, where people can keep running even with 5 bullets in their head. It is very sad that people like you have access to a wealth of information via the internet, yet still have the common sense of an elementary school student.

    • Gimmick? How about I print off a single use part, install it in a gun and shoot you with it, then you can tell me if you think if it is still a gimmick. As my name suggests, use your head. No one is talking about it being as good as the original. It is an alternative to the original parts. Next time THINK before posting.

      • Konohamaru's friend

        It’s pretty sad that the kid you replied to doesn’t get either point:
        1. As you and I stated, single use guns are incredibly dangerous
        2. The dumb kid has no clue how much prosthetic arms cost, let alone ones that can GRASP objects.

      • I agree use your head, +1

      • you both have a good point I think what he was really saying was that a plastic gun isn’t really a functionally usable gun it’s just a gimmick. chances are good it will blow up in the face of the user who tries to fire it.

  4. This will be hurriedly snapped up by the prosthetics industry, patented, and then quickly forgotten.

    Come on – do you think they’re going to let someone get away with building something for $500 what they sell for $80,000?

    My, you’re naive. That’s not how American Capitalism works, dearie.

    • I am in the industry. 3d printing was invented by the prosthetics industry a long time ago. CAD-CAM was the name. This 3d printing however is a much better, cheaper, and simplified solution and I hope it will change the world.

    • 3D printer, $300, making the arm, $500.
      Trying to sue someone for pirating an arm:
      It doesn’t matter if it gets patented, ANYONE can make them, and stopping them will shame their companies out of existence.
      If not, then I weep for humanity, and the members of it that see corporation as our next step in evolution.

      • Sadly I cannot see any company being “shamed out of existence” for trying to sue him. Mostly because they would likely pay off American government agencies to make the regulations too difficult to pass through for this kid to get anywhere. But I have faith in other countries.

        And this would hopefully be open sourced where anyone can print one off and perhaps the doctor make the final tweeks.

    • The kid will probably make a good chunk of change if he isn’t too greedy. Whether the corporation buys the kid out, or they sue the snot out of him depends on which is cheaper. As BlaBla implied, welcome to American Capitalism.

  5. A young, white Miles Dyson.

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