Not too long ago, in a galaxy not far away, Liam Porter got a new Star Wars-themed arm.
Surrounded by members of the 501st Legion (a group of Star Wars fans who shows up to events in costume) in Augusta, Georgia, the 7-year-old was outfitted with a prosthetic limb that was created with a 3-D printer.
"He was speechless," Ryan Porter, Liam's mother, told TODAY about the moment the arm was revealed. "That's rare, because he is a constant talker. He didn't know what to say. All he could do is giggle."
The arm was designed by John Peterson, who connected with the boy's family through e-NABLE, the same online organization that helped outfit 6-year-old Alex Pring with an arm over the summer. Peterson was looking for ways to use his new 3-D printer when he found Liam, who happened to live in the same city, which is important because molds of the arm need to be taken to ensure a perfect fit.
Liam loves clone troopers, the soldiers in the Star Wars movies before the evil emperor took power and the stormtroopers came on the scene. So Peterson decided he should build a clone trooper arm. He met members of the 501st Legion at a MakerFaire in Georgia. They agreed to deck out his design with a Star Wars theme.
Finally, on Saturday at the Regal 20 Cinemas in Augusta, Peterson watched as Liam tried on his arm for the first time.
"I wasn't too nervous," Peterson told TODAY. "If it broke, it's just plastic, so we could just print a new one in a couple of hours."
That attitude shows the great promise that 3-D printing has for the medical community.
Liam's prosthetic limb is called a RIT arm, made for people with an elbow but no wrist. In the past, something like this could cost tens of thousands of dollars. That is a problem for children, who outgrow limbs just like they do shoes.
Now, 3-D printers allow for prosthetic limbs to be made for much less. The material for Liam's arm cost only $100. Blueprints for prosthetic limbs are freely available on e-NABLE for anybody who has a 3-D printer.
Liam's arm not only looks cool, but it also grip objects when he makes movements with his elbow. Now he is doing things at home that he could never do before, like grab cups from the cupboard and place a fork in the special clamp that Peterson designed.
As Liam grows, Peterson plans to print new arms for him to use. Ryan is overjoyed at the arrangement.
"It's amazing," she said. "You hear about so many negative things in the world today, it's just wonderful to have somebody donate their time, money and energy to bring a smile to a child's face."