How a father's innovation gives hope for the future

We were inspired by his mission and bold vision

When his first born son, Sol, lost an arm at just 10 days old Ben Ryan sprang into action, keen to give Sol the best possible start to life. Little did he realise that his innovation had the potential to change the lives of children worldwide.

Sol lost his arm shortly after birth in March 2015.

Ben immediately started to research amputation and prosthetics. He soon discovered that a prosthetic arm wouldn't be available until Sol was at least a year old. This is due to the growth patterns at this early stage in life - even at one year the artificial arm would be purely cosmetic with no grabbing or holding action. Only when Sol reached three to four years of age could he be offered a functional myoelectric arm powered by batteries.

Ben was aware that the first three years are the most critical in shaping a child's learning skills, as well as having an impact on their social and emotional abilities. Furthermore, evidence suggests that children not fitted with a functional arm until after two years of age tend to reject prosthetics.

Although not an engineer by trade, Ben's determination to help his son inspired him to design prototype arms that could be worn from an earlier age. His aim was to create a light, attractive, customisable limb - produced with a 3D printer.

The technology he has created uses fluid to operate a hydraulic grabbing mechanism. An idea inspired by the way in which spiders move their legs using fluid pressure. In Ben's prototype, sacks of fluid in the socket of the prosthetic arm are squashed to control a basic grabbing mechanism and enabling Sol to power his prosthetic hand.

Sol, now two, is comfortably powering his hydraulic arm and gripping with his hand. "He can do 90% of the things a kid with two hands can do, I just want to help him adjust to the 10% of tasks he is going to find difficult," says Ben. He is continuing to develop the arm and currently working on the thumb functionality to increase effectiveness.

Spurred on by how quickly and easily Sol has adapted to his new arm, and the positive impact this has had on his life, it was clear to Ben that his concept could have a life-changing impact to those in similar positions further afield.

Ben has since given up his teaching career and founded the company Ambionics in order to develop his technology for the benefit of young children worldwide.

"My aim through Ambionics is to help children everywhere adopt and continue to use prosthetics into adulthood. Offering safe function with no small parts or batteries at the earliest possible age is key to achieving this", says Ben.

Besides the safety element, a 3D printing and scanning approach has allowed for a large reduction in production costs, making prosthetics potentially accessible to children everywhere.

RS first became involved with Ben's journey after Alison Hutchings, our Assistant Global 3D Printing Category Manager, saw his story on Sky News. Inspired by his journey and his determination to improve his son's way of life, Alison arranged for 15 kilograms of 3D printing filament from our RS Pro range to be delivered to Ben.

Alison explains, "I saw Ben's moving and heart-warming story on Sky News, and felt there was a way that RS could help. We contacted Ben through LinkedIn and formed a relationship. We were inspired by his mission and bold vision - especially from someone with no former design background whatsoever - and decided we wanted to support Ambionics."


We were inspired by his mission and bold vision


The delivery of filament has supported Ben in prototype development and to kick off his Beta trial. He is offering 20 families a free trial of the Ambionics service.

Ben concludes: "To just have somebody look and say 'that needs a pat on the back that needs some acknowledgment' was really motivating for me. I am eternally grateful for the support that we have had from RS."

If like us you have been inspired by Ben and Sol's incredible story, go online to support Ambionics in their crowd funding mission.

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