By Mark Wolf

The focus of Thursday’s Legislative Summit session on 3D printing—which produces 3D models directly from designs—was on innovation and applications.

But all of a sudden the room got misty.

Emma is shown wit her 3D printer created exoskeleton. Photo from Stratays.comEmma was born with arthrogyposis, which prevents her from lifting her arms on her own power. A video documented how medical researchers at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children pediatric engineering research lab used a Stratasys 3D printer to make a durable custom exoskeleton that allowed Emma to play, eat and move her arms for the first time.

Exoskeletons were being used by other children but they were made of metal and were too heavy for a 25-pounder like Emma.

The solution was to construct Emma’s model—which she calls her “magic arms”—from the same strong, durable plastic used to make Legos. As Emma grows, designers can adjust the parts to adjust to her size.

Although 3D printing technology has been around for 25 years, better and more cost-effective design has expanded its use to a wide variety of applications including aerospace, architecture, medical and dental, defense, automotive and entertainment, said Jon Cobb, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs for Stratasys.

Mark Wolf is an editor at NCSL. 

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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