13-year-old Va. girl surprised with 3D-printed prosthetic hand

- A 13-year-old Alexandria girl received a life-changing surprise as she was presented with a 3D-printed prosthetic hand.

Christmas came early for Rebekah Jensen, who has never had use of her right hand. When she arrived at Marymount University Tuesday night, she had no idea why she was there until she saw the prosthetic hand.

It is a Christmas gift that no doubt will be one to remember for a lifetime.

When asked what she is looking forward to doing with her new 3D printed prosthetic hand, Jensen said, “Kitchen work, stirring, cooking, just making things by myself without anyone else’s help.”

“We’re so used to having two hands that it’s a different world for her,” said Rebekah’s mother, Kathy. “It was thrilling to see her grab something with her right hand for the first time.”

Rebekah’s mother added, “It will change some important things I think – independence, self-confidence and I hope that she can use it at their school.”

When Rebekah picked up items with her right prosthetic hand for the first time, it was an emotional moment for the daughter and mother. They said their request for a traditional prosthetic hand was denied by their insurance company.

The family connected with Marymount University physics professor Dr. Eric Bubar through Enabling the Future, an organization that provides functional hand designs.

Rebekah Jensen’s hand was printed on a 3D printer at Marymount University. Dr. Bubar and his students have been printing 3D prosthetic hands for families in need here and abroad.

A traditional prosthetic hand cost thousands of dollars. The 3D-printed version cost less than what most people pay to fill up a gas tank.

“This 3D-printed prosthetic works with just simple wrist motion as long as you can bend your wrist and will close … All the materials that are in this -- the screws, the plastic, the fishing line, the dental rubber bands -- cost maybe $30 to $40 total,” said Dr. Bubar. “It’s providing about the same functionality as a prosthetic that might cost something like $10,000 to $15,000.”

Dr. Bubar said the printer to produce the 3D prosthetic hand costs about $600. Parts can be easily produced and replaced for a fraction of the cost.

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