By Sophie Norris
A doting dad whose son was born with no left hand has created an entire new limb for him using a 3D printer.
Jamie Miller, 10, can now pick up things, high five his dad Callum and even play catch with him using his DIY arm.
The schoolboy had learnt to cope with his disability but Callum, 51, began researching alternatives on the internet.
He found a charity called Team UnLimbited, who use 3D printers to help build new robotic limbs, but they had an 18 month waiting list.
So Callum decided to have a go himself and bought the printer off eBay and downloaded the arm designs from the charity.
Within weeks, Jamie had adapted brilliantly to the arm so they have created two more flexible arms, which works from leads running from his elbow.
The pair are now saving up to build a fourth arm that would used electronic sensors.
Callum, from Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, said: “Just seeing my boy being able to hold things and throw a ball with his left hand was quite emotional. Now he can grab life with both hands.
“After coming across Team UnLimbited, I told him he could have a ‘robotic arm’ and that’s what I made him.
“I’m used to doing crafts with Jamie so I thought I’d take it on myself and we spent some time looking at 3D printers.
“I’d never done anything like that in my life but the waiting list for the charity to make one was 18 months.
“I’ve built turbochargers for cars before and now I work at a motor company selling parts, but this is not my forte.
”But we are so impressed with the results.”
Jamie who could always ‘play PS4 better than most people’ says he now feels more normal at school since getting his new arm.
Callum added: “Jamie was born without a left hand. After the birth, the nurses asked if we were aware of any problems and we said no. When we saw Jamie he had no left hand and it just hadn’t been picked up on the scans.
“It was a little bit of a shock but I was joking about it within an hour. It was never a problem for us and we never let Jamie think he had any disability. We taught him to just get on with it.
“I always used to say ‘you’ll save money on gloves’ or ‘I hope you’re right-handed’. We just taught him to do things with the one hand and by the age of three he was riding his bike without stabilisers.
“Other people can be a bit cautious about it but he can still do everything.
“When he was about six, we took him to North Tees Hospital and they were talking about chopping his toes off and putting it on the end of his arm and all sorts.
“We decided against that as we didn’t see the point of chopping things off and sticking them somewhere else and his lack of a left hand had never stopped him – we always do crafts together.
“He plays the PS4 better than most people with two hands.”
In October Callum was sent a link to Team UnLimbited’s website and discovered their work. The duo behind the charity, Stephen Davies and Drew Murray, build the devices from a garden shed and garage.
When Callum contacted the team, he was told there was a waiting list of 18 months for them to build the limb so he downloaded the open-source design instead.
He began by purchasing his own 3D printer kit from China for £160 after selling his telescope and camera to fund the equipment.
Within weeks, he was printing and adapting the device for his son and on Saturday [17 Feb], Jamie learned how to throw a ball between both hands.
Callum said: “I contacted Stephen, one of the volunteers, but because they do this all themselves there was an 18-month waiting list.
“Before I knew it, I was looking at the price of 3D printers and ours was £160 from China. I thought it’d be rubbish but it turned out okay. It’s ingenious.
“As soon as I found the design on their website, I knew it was something I had to do. I sold my telescope and digital camera to afford it and we managed it.
“I bought the printer, watched a couple of tutorial videos on YouTube and within weeks Jamie high-five me with his left hand for the first time.”
After learning to throw a ball and juggle it between two hands last weekend, Jamie has now requested his own name to be printed on the arm.
The dad-son team are also saving up for equipment to create a sensored device which is more sophisticated and operated by sensors on Jamie’s arm.
Callum said: “The first version allowed Jamie just to high-five me but then we adapted it and the second allowed him to pick up and hold a torch.
“I suggested he tried hoovering but that didn’t go down too well.
“The third hand, the blue one, allowed him to throw a ball to himself and catch it.
“He tried the blue arm for the first time on Saturday afternoon and within a few minutes he could throw a ball. I had to stop filming because I was tearing up – as was his sister Molly [Miller, 14].
“When we fitted it and it worked, that was just too much for me to take in. It was a very emotional time.
“The first arm and hand fixture stopped above his elbow and by bending the elbow, it created movement in the fingers.
“Now I’ve downloaded a few 3D programmes myself because Jamie wants his name embossing on the top of the arm bit. We’ve also come across another company that use sensors to help move the fingers so we’re looking into that.”
Amazed by his dad’s work, Jamie resolved to keep quiet until his new arm was complete. He then surprised his mum, Suzanne Chester, 36, two weeks ago.
The videos of the schoolboy’s progression have since been shared more than 2,000 times and Callum has vowed to create more as the pair adapt the arm further.
Callum said: “Since I posted the videos of Jamie using the hands, they have been shared more than 2,000 times and I’ve had people messaging me asking how I did it.
“Me and Jamie’s mam have separated so she didn’t know about the hand until it was all finished. Jamie wanted to surprise her.
“When she saw the video she was in tears. Within five minutes of him being home, she messaged me to say ‘this is amazing.’
“Jamie has said that he feels a bit more normal next to the other kids and Monday was the first day he’d been at school with it.”
Returning from his second day at school with his arm, Jamie said: “I think my new hand is really cool and I like using it a lot.
“I feel like a bit of a superhero. I can catch a ball, hold stuff and play games with it now.
“In the future I would like to learn how to make them like my dad so I can help other people who need them.”
A spokesperson for Team Unlimbited said: “Stories like Callum’s are why we do this.
“We have worked incredibly hard to make our design as accessible as possible for people who have no options, or with little or no access. Well done, we are proud.”