Engineering a Better Bionic Arm

17:06 minutes

Shaking hands with 3-D printed bionic limb

A post shared by Ira Flatow (@scifriguy) on

When we ponder the future, we often think of sci-fi subjects—space, time travel, and robots. But we can’t forget about what the future holds for medicine. Engineers play a huge role in biomedicine by developing technology that works with the body. And one area that’s really advancing is prosthetic devices.

The prosthetics made for adults today are more versatile, more flexible, and more useful than their predecessors. But prosthetics for children present a much bigger technical challenge. For these devices to work for kids, they must have smaller parts, be more durable, and be affordable, because kids will quickly outgrow them.

[This what a fish and a rare amphibian can tell us about how limbs develop, grow, and even re-grow.]

Despite those obstacles, Albert Manero, a former University of Central Florida engineering student, figured out a way to do it. His non-profit company Limbitless Solutions, based in Orlando, Florida, custom-builds 3D-printed arms for kids all over the world. Two years ago, he presented a young girl named Annika Emmert with her very own.

Annika and Manero join Stephen Lambert, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, live on the stage at the Bob Carr Theater in Orlando to discuss the future of “smart” prosthetics.

Segment Guests

Albert Manero

Albert Manero is president of Limbitless Solutions in Orlando, Florida.

Annika Emmert

Annika Emmert lives in St. Augustine, Florida.

Stephen Lambert

Stephen Lambert is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando, Florida.

Meet the Producer

About Katie Feather

Katie Feather is a former SciFri producer and the proud mother of two cats, Charleigh and Sadie.