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The Dawning of DIY Bionics


After his right arm was mangled by a stamping machine, Chang Hsien-Liang had two choices presented to him: pay for a replacement prosthetic arm he could afford, which was rudimentary and lacking in features, or shell out money he did not have for an expensive robotic arm. Being an engineer, however, Mr. Chang elected to go a different route, and create his own prosthetic arm.

Having heard about 3D printing technology, Chang purchased a scanner and 3D printer, and began watching online videos to study arms and hands. Despite having no medical training, Chang eventually produced a prosthetic arm with moveable fingers, which cost him around $4,000, according to The Times.

And now that he has created his own 3D-printed prosthetic arm, Chang wants to put his newfound skills to work in creating arms for other people, such as Angel Peng, an eight-year-old girl whose right hand was severely crippled in a scalding accident when she was just nine months old. This would make her an ideal candidate for one of Chang’s 3D-printed arms, especially since Angel’s mother, Peng Ji-Han, indicated the reason they decided to seek out Mr. Chang was due to the high cost of prosthetic arms.

This has enormous implications for the world, because it is not just companies such as Open Bionics and Touch Bionics that are creating replacement arms, but also, individuals such as Chang, who, for a few thousand dollars, can set up the equipment necessary to produce replacement limbs. And although the quality of such prosthetics cannot currently match those created by larger-pocketed companies, as 3D printing technology improves, and more knowledge is gained about the process, the quality of homemade 3D-printed limbs will surely improve.

As a result, people all over the world will be to pick up items, hold loved ones, and perform movements they were previously unable to, due to low-cost 3D-printed arms.

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