Girl receives 3D printed prosthetic hand

Local News

A 12-year-old girl has a new chapter ahead of her after receiving a 3D printed prosthetic hand made by Virginia Tech researchers.

Josie Fraticelli enjoys playing her trumpet. She is able to play with only one hand, but now she can use two.

“I could do it before, but it makes it easier now that I do have it,” she said.

Josie was born with amniotic band syndrome, a condition that stunted the growth of her right hand while she was still in her mother’s womb.

“I see kids at my elementary school – they would play on the monkey bars, and they would climb on top, and then I think to myself, ‘I can’t do that,'” she said.

She has been able to do many things with only one hand, but with her new 3D printed prosthetic hand, she has become capable of much more.

“It was nice to see what I could do and what I couldn’t,” Josie said. “I would go around the house and try to pick something up to see if I could do it or try and do other things.”

Blake Johnson and his students at Virginia Tech made the prosthetic hand. Johnson’s research at Virginia Tech focuses on biomedical devices.

This is the first prosthetic 3D printed in his lab, he said.

“3D printing really provides a relatively low-cost solution for prosthetics and also gives people a little bit more opportunity in personalization,” said Johnson, an assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering. 

The materials for the prosthetic hand only cost around $20 to $30, and the printer used to make them costs at most about $1,000, Johnson said. Eventually, people may be printing prosthetics right in their own homes, he said.

“Maybe they’ll have one of these things on their desk right next to their laptop computer, and they’re going to be designing and tweaking and customizing their own prosthetic device for themselves in the future,” Johnson said.

As for Josie, she and her family are looking forward to seeing what is possible.

“It’s a lot of fun to see the advancement and give her the opportunity to do some of the things that she might not have been able to do in the past,” said Tom Fraticelli, Josie’s dad.

“It makes it less difficult on me,” Josie said. “I don’t have to worry as much like something’s going to go wrong. Like I’m going to spill my milk or I’m going to spill soda.”

Next, the researchers will print another hand for Josie that fits better and is more personalized to her needs, Johnson said. They will compare how that one works for her to the one she uses now, he added.

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