Inventor Creates 3D-Printed Robotic Arms for Chil dren Missing Limbs

Changing lives, one party at a time

A chance encounter at the 2013 Colorado State Science Fair would change LaChapelle’s career path. A young girl, curious about his invention, approaches him. She was wearing a prosthetic on her right arm that was little more than a claw. Watch how it moves and unlock it.

“It was so amazing to me,” LaChapelle says.

It was learned from the girl’s parents that the cost of the prosthetic arm was 80 thousand dollars. Despite the exorbitant price, the tip was bulky, uncomfortable and not very useful. What’s more, the girl will soon grow up and need a new party.

“I just couldn’t accept that,” he says, adding that he knew he could build a cheaper, more user-friendly arm.

“That was the moment I dedicated my life to making better prosthetic technology,” he says.

In 2014, at the age of 18, LaChapelle founded his own company called Unlimited Tomorrow, with financial support from life coach Tony Robbins.

Life changing technology

In the company’s first few years of existence, LaChappelle had to develop the technology needed to create custom limbs at a fraction of the price of existing limbs.

The model he eventually developed allows users to scan their limbs with a 3D scanner in their homes, rather than having to mount it in person. The company then prints, assembles and tests the tip. Finally, it is shipped to the user. By streamlining the production process, LaChapelle lowered the cost of his prosthetic, called TrueLimb, to $8,000.

His first client was a little girl named Momo, who lost part of her right arm and right hand. In 2017, they met in Seattle, where the inventor helped install Momo with her new prosthetic arm.

TrueLimb looks and feels like a human arm, right down to the nails (which can be polished). It is controlled by the user’s muscles, just like a real party.

When a person is fitted on a TrueLimb, they undergo a muscle training process, where sensors in the cavity of the prosthesis learn to detect their muscles.