Father creates bionic arm for toddler using Xbox console and 3D printer

The family on the GMB sofa. Credit: GMB

A father whose baby son's arm had to be amputated has taken drastic action and created a bionic limb for the youngster - using an Xbox console and a 3D printer.

Soon after Sol Smith-Ryan's birth, doctors discovered a blood clot in his arm, leaving them with no choice but to amputate it.

  • The family joined Alastair Stewart in the studio for the ITV Lunchtime News...but Sol didn't fancy sitting still. See the results below

Sol's parents were told that the little boy could not have an electronic replacement limb until he was three or four-years-old, or a "cumbersome" body-powered hook when he was 18-months.

However, Sol's father, Ben Ryan, felt it was important for the youngster to get a prosthetic limb as soon as possible.

Mr Ryan felt that the sooner Sol had a prosthetic arm, the easier he would find using it. Credit: Smith-Ryan family.

"With my knowledge of psychology I knew that following the NHS route of doing nothing for 12-months was not the best, and I thought that I could perhaps do better," the former lecturer explained.

Mr Ryan began researching prosthetic limbs and found "a fairly clear pattern where children not fitted with a functional hand until after two-years of age tended to reject the prosthetic".

Sol's arm was amputated soon after birth. Credit: Smith-Ryan family.

The sooner Sol could have an artificial limb, the better he would be able to develop with it, Mr Ryan believed.

However, since Sol would not be able to receive an NHS electronic limb until at least the age of the three, Mr Ryan set about "designing something that could be worn much earlier and which countered many of the weaknesses of electric arms, body powered hooks and passive or cosmetic arms" which young children often reject.

Sol's current arm is the second prototype Mr Ryan created. Credit: Smith-Ryan family.

After quitting his job so he could focus on his project, Mr Ryan spent a year creating the limb after being inspired by the way in which spiders use hydraulic pressure to move their legs.

With no prior knowledge of prosthetics Mr Ryan set about watching hours of YouTube tutorials to teach himself how his feat could be achieved, and using nothing more than an Xbox scanner and Bangor University's 3D printer, a year later, Mr Ryan created his first prototype.

Sol's bionic arm allows him to use his elbow to squash fluid inside the limb to operate the thumb and allow him to grip objects.

Kate Smith, Sol's mother explained how she did not see her partner "for days at a time" as he worked on the project from the shed at the bottom of their garden in Anglesey.

Ms Smith added she "did think he [Mr Smith] was going a little bit mad at times...

"But Ben is very driven, so I knew the driving force behind everything was Sol, so I knew he would make it."

Health bosses have described his invention as potentially revolutionary and Mr Ryan is appealing for £150,000 through a crowdfunding page to allow his Ambionics business to launch on the market.