PRICE — Three-year-old Robert Noyes was born without half a left arm.
“We were at our five-month ultrasound when we found out he was going to be born an amputee,” said Brandi Noyes, Robert’s mother. “I cried when I was first at the hospital. But I didn’t cry because he was different. I cried because of the world. Because it’s so cold and the struggles he’s going to have to face.”
His mother looked into prosthetic arms never realizing how expensive they were.
“They can be $12,000, even after insurance,” she said.
So, when Robert got older, she asked around. It turns out, one of her friends was related to Ray Buckland, a man in his mid-70s who loves to print, not pictures, but plastic.
“And the magic happened,” Brandi Robert said. “He has a 3D printer, and he was on board immediately.
Over the last four years, Buckland has used his 3D printer to create a spatula, an ice cream scooper and a handle for a can opener that broke.
“Fifteen dollars for a new one or 7 cents to print one,” he said, with a chuckle.
For all the gadgets he has printed, though, a 3D-printed prosthetic arm has him the most excited.
“This is my graduation,” he said while holding up the finished project. “Everything up to this point was practice.”
It took 80 hours of printing and just as much research on the internet, but when it was done, Buckland couldn’t believe it.
“To me, this is what all this was about,” he said while bending the prosthetic arm. “As he bends his arm, it brings the fingers in so he can grab something and pick it up and put it down.”
Just before Christmas, Robert and his mother came to Buckland’s house and tried it on.
“The first time I seen him, I mean, his eyes just lit up,” Buckland said with a smile.
The arm worked.
“That’s his robot arm,” Buckland said with a laugh as he held Robert in his lap to play with the arm.
“At Walmart, he was showing everybody and anybody who would look at him and listen,” Brandi Noyes said.
It has been two weeks since getting the arm, and his mother says he hasn’t stopped smiling.Comment on this story
“He wants the world to know he’s got two hands,” she said. “The first thing he wants when he wakes up in the morning is his arm. And he gets disappointed when I have to take it off of him at night. It has to be where he can see it.”
It’s all thanks to his new best friend, whom he calls “Papa Ray.”
The arm has also given Robert the kind of confidence not even the best 3D printer can print.
“I’d seen that little boy’s look on his face when he got this, and I said that’s what it’s all about,” said Buckland.
In all, Buckland says, the material used to print the arm cost about $25.