The Martha’s Vineyard Mini Maker Faire is going into its second year at the Ag Hall, and opens Saturday, May 13, at 10 am. The faire showcases Island “makers” — beekeepers, sword makers, robot designers, artists, musicians — anyone who comes up with a clever solution or a new idea. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to some of the makers, starting this week with Sam Hoyt, a seventh grader from the West Tisbury School who uses a 3D printer to create prosthetic arms.
Sam is missing his left arm from the elbow down, and makes some of these prosthetics for his own use. We met with him and his mother Emma Kennedy recently at Mocha Mott’s to talk about how it all works. A 3D printer creates objects from a plastic filament, somewhat similar to a thin-point glue gun. The machine prints by adding thin layers of this filament onto one another until it is shaped into the finished product.
MVT: What’s your favorite part about this project? Was there a moment or stage that you liked doing the most?
Sam: I like when it’s finished. It’s all just cool to see how it works. Also, compared to the medical arm that [doctors] would give you, if you feel these both, the [medical one] is a lot heavier, and there’s also a price difference. The [medical one] costs a couple thousand dollars to make, while [the 3D printed arm] costs about $20 to make. So if you grow out of [the 3D printed arm] really quickly, you can just print another one.
MVT: How many years do you see this arm lasting before you have to make a new one?
Emma: He’s growing so fast, probably six months. But I think as far as the pieces go, probably a couple of years.
MVT: Did you need any kind of training to make something as complex as an arm?
Emma: We really just used online videos. There was no particular training for it, and in the beginning, we really did print a lot of gunk. It took a long time. There’s a lot of getting the supports right. In the beginning there was a lot of trial and error.
MVT: How long have you been working on this arm [the 3D printed arm]?
Sam: It takes not too long for the fingers to print, but the parts like the palm and the forearm take about eight hours each. So we usually just print it in the morning and come back to it at night.
MVT: What’s the performance difference like?
Sam: [The 3D printed] is easier to use because you have more room to move around, and it’s not as heavy.
Emma: And with [the medical one] you had to wear a harness that would go over both shoulders, and with this one … can you show her how it works?
Sam: This one works because the fishing line goes through the entire arm, and when this string bends, it causes tension [fingers close].
MVT: Is that difficult to get used to, or do you have a pretty good control over it?
Sam: I have a pretty good control over it. It takes you a little while to get used to, but once you’re there, it’s pretty easy.
MVT: Do you find holding cards or pieces of paper difficult with this arm?
Sam: I can’t hold them with this arm, but you can make special attachments that are specifically made for it.
MVT: So it’s like different hands for different occasions.
Sam: Yeah, and you can make attachments for different things too, like Lego. You could print something out for Lego and attach it and stick something on it. Or holding cards.
MVT: So what do you do in school?
Sam: I don’t really wear this in school, but you could use it for holding a pot on the stove.