Emilie Receives Best Birthday Present Ever With Life Changing 3D Prosthetic Hand Printed at Cardiff Met

​29/10/2015

​(L-R) Cian Morris, Martijn Gommeren - FabLab Manager and Emilie Riddell.

​Designers at Cardiff Met's FabLab have made eight-year-old Emilie Riddell's dreams come true with a £60 hand in her favourite colour – pink with glow in the dark fingers.

Emilie, who turned eight last week, was born with rudimentary digits at the end of her left hand and a fully formed right arm, met five-year-old Cian Morris, one of the first children in Wales who was fitted with a similar FabLab printed 3D right hand earlier this Summer.

The 'Raptor' hands are made almost entirely of plastic with metal wires and are strapped onto the wrist with Velcro. They are operated just by bending the wrist, and Cian, from Llwynypia, Rhondda, showed Emilie the ropes in working her new hand.

The fingers and palm were printed by FabLab manager Martijn Gommeren and his team, who downloaded the design template from Enabling the Future, an American website focusing on 3D printing technology and discovered by Cian's parents Jamie and Zoe, before they approached FabLab after exploring other avenues – including the possibility of removing a toe and reattaching it as a thumb.

Printing took roughly three days, with assembly taking just two hours and Emilie's parents Sade and John also got in touch with Martijn after Emilie's auntie read about Cian's new, life changing hand.

Unlike Zoe, whose doctors had problems finding Cian's hand during her second pregnancy scan, Sade was unaware of any problems during her pregnancy with Emilie. Genetic tests have proven inconclusive, with no diagnosis provided for her condition.

Cian, who is at Pontrhondda Primary School in Tonypdandy, has learned how to grip his fingers and is learning to ride his first bike, something that Emilie, from Pontypool, also loves doing. She was recently selected to train with the Welsh gymnastics squad and is also a 'brilliant' skipper.

She skips by tying her rope around her left wrist, but she can't wait to use her new innovative hand for added grip – and her mum Sade is looking forward to her skipping being a 'bit safer!'

Sade, who is currently studying English and History at university and has one daughter older than Emilie, and two younger sons, said: "I wouldn't say Emilie has ever really struggled with doing anything – she's just not like that. There's not a lot that Emilie can't do, but her new hand means things may be a bit safer! She is very active and certainly doesn't let her disability hold her back. She is constantly on the go, skipping, cycling, and doing cartwheels.

"She can get herself dressed, do up her own buttons, open up packets of food and is constantly practising her gymnastics skills! But her new hand will mean she won't feel shy about her disability anymore. She is a sensitive girl and often feels self-conscious or tries to hide it when she meets other children for the first time.

"It has taken just over a month from my sister reading about Cian on social media to our getting in touch and being fitted and receiving the finished product. The FabLab team has been absolutely fantastic. Martijn showed us exactly how the 3D printer works and spent time with Emilie to explain how he would make her new hand.

FabLab manager Martijn Gommeren said: "We have been delighted to help print off a prosthetic hands for Cian and Emilie, made to size and designed for free. These 3D printers really do have the ability to change the world in which we live. We are now developing a programme to teach Emilie and Cian's families how to use the software and printers to enable them to make a new one when needed."

Emilie said: "I've told my friends and my teacher in school all about my new hand and I can't wait to take it in and show them all. I can't wait to go out on my bike and use my skipping rope without having to tie it around my wrist."

FabLab (shorthand for pre-fabrication laboratory) Cardiff is the first official UK FabLab attached to a university and is open for use by designers, artists, businesses and the public.