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How 3D printing at Norwich Castle is helping children in the region

PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 October 2015 | UPDATED: 07:56 05 October 2015

The exhibition at Norwich Castle about 3D printing called Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing. Grace Baker, 5, from Stoke Holy Cross, tries out one of the Raptor Reloaded hands made from 3D printing different parts and clipping together with elastic, to make a tool that Grace can use as a hand. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The exhibition at Norwich Castle about 3D printing called Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing. Grace Baker, 5, from Stoke Holy Cross, tries out one of the Raptor Reloaded hands made from 3D printing different parts and clipping together with elastic, to make a tool that Grace can use as a hand. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2015

A new exhibition at Norwich Castle is giving hope to children with missing limbs thanks to 3D printing technology.

The exhibition at Norwich Castle about 3D printing called Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing. Frankie Stevens, 3, from Lowestoft, with her dad Mark, tries out one of the Raptor hands made from 3D printing different parts and clipping together with elastic, to make a tool that Frankie can use as a hand. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe exhibition at Norwich Castle about 3D printing called Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing. Frankie Stevens, 3, from Lowestoft, with her dad Mark, tries out one of the Raptor hands made from 3D printing different parts and clipping together with elastic, to make a tool that Frankie can use as a hand. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Volunteers are offering to give children across the region free replacement prosthetic hands that take just days to make using 3D printers.

Around eight families visited the castle over the weekend to find out more about the scheme.

Mark Stevens, 34, of Lowestoft, brought along his three-year-old daughter Frankie, who was born without a left hand.

He said: “It is incredible what can be done. Something like this would give her the ability to grip, which she hasn’t had before.

“If she could become the girl with the robot hand rather than the girl with no hand, it would put a positive spin on things.

“Also we are getting her a bike for Christmas, so anything that can help with that is great.”

The artificial hand, known as the Raptor Reloaded, is made up of around 31 parts and is created using a biodegradable thermoplastic called polylactic acid.

When the user flexes their wrist downwards, it causes elastic cords attached to the fingers to tighten, resulting in a gripping action.

While it is not as advanced as some medical models, it is significantly cheaper to make - costing just £10 for the materials.

Hannah Higham, curator of modern and contemporary art at the castle, said the low cost was a particular advantage for parents.

She explained: “The problem with child prosthetics is that they are expensive and need to be replaced as the child grows. But with these, when the child grows in a year, they can just make another one. The important part is to teach families how to make one themselves.”

On Saturday, members of Norwich Hackspace, who are volunteering for the project, measured the wrists of the children ready for the printing to begin.

Rob Baker, of Stoke Holy Cross, was seeking to find out how the limb could assist his three-year-old daughter Grace.

He said: “You don’t often come across stuff like this on your doorstep so we thought we would come and see what it is all about.

“We would like to have one printed to see what Grace can do with it. It will be fascinating to see.”

The castle currently has three 3D printers - each one costing around £1,800 - and is able to make a hand in roughly 30 hours.

Once it has all been printed, the individual components must then be assembled manually.

Next month the families will be invited back to the castle to learn how to put the hands together before they can be taken home.

Marion Catlin, one of the founders of Norwich Hackspace, said there was a lot of potential for the limbs.

She added: “The guys here are quite curious about what they can do with the hands. They want to know what happens if you add motors or add lights to them. There is an opportunity to embellish them.”

While the project is due to end in December, members of Norwich Hackspace will receive one of the 3D printers.

Ms Catlin said that if the group had the resources, it could continue making the limbs.

Families wishing to have a 3D hand printed for their child are asked to get in touch with the castle this week on 01603 493649.

Are you using 3D printing to benefit the community? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684

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