3-D printing: Dad builds prosthetic hand for son

Twelve-year-old Leon McCarthy was born without fingers on his left hand, but thanks to his determined dad, a generous inventor, and a 3-D printer, he now has a brand new set of digits.

CBS Evening News/YouTube
Twelve-year-old Leon McCarthy shows off his new prosthetic hand crafted by a 3-D printer.

Twelve-year-old Leon McCarthy was born different. Due to a complication during gestation, Leon was born without any fingers on his left hand. Thanks to his persistent father Paul McCarthy, a special effects artist, and a state-of-the-art 3-D printer, Leon no longer sees himself as different. He’s special, he says.

CBS Evening News’ Michelle Miller caught up with Leon and his dad last month. Since the story has been picked up by additional news outlets, including FoxNews, msnNOW, and NPR.

What’s so appealing about Leon’s story that it warrants so much media attention? Prosthetics are nothing new. Archaeologists found an Ancient Egyptian prosthetic toe fashioned out of wood and leather when excavating a tomb in 2000, LiveScience reported. Prosthetic limbs have come a long way since then. Prosthetic legs have become a routine sight around Boston, where dozens of people injured by during the Boston Marathon bombings are learning to navigate on their new high-tech legs.

Yet Leon’s story has bobbed to the surface amid a sea of heartwarming stories of amputees that have been able to make their bodies whole again with the help of technology. What’s truly amazing about Leon’s hand is that his dad made it for him on a 3-D printer, for a miniscule fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics.

After scouring the Internet for two years in search of blueprints for a new hand for his son, Mr. McCarthy stumbled across Ivan Owen, a special effects artist and puppeteer  from Bellingnam, Wash. who had successfully created mechanical fingers for a carpenter and a 5-year-old boy in South Africa.

When McCarthy told Leon what he had found, the 12-year-old was skeptical, Ms. Miller reports. However, the proof is in the fingers. Leon’s colorful new digits are dexterous enough to manipulate a pencil. And for the first time, he tells Miller, he feels, “special instead of different.”

And dad couldn’t be happier. “Making your kids happy is the most rewarding thing you could have as a dad,” McCarthy told Miller.

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