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PRICE, Utah – Like many people in their mid-70s, Ray Buckland needed a hobby.
He admits it can get pretty boring in his Price home if he has nothing to do. “Just sitting around doing nothing,” he said, with the kind of jolly laugh that makes anyone listening to him laugh back.
So, he got into printing. Not pictures, but plastic.
“Keeps me from going nuts,” he said.
Using a 3D printer, Buckland has printed 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 another chuckle.
He has found you can print almost anything with enough time, space, and a good 3D printer.
“My dungeon,” he said, with a laugh as he walked down a flight of stairs into his basement.
The 3D printer Buckland uses is in his basement. It was busy humming along printing a small gnome when Buckland checked on it.
“Right now, it’s going around the perimeter,” he said while pointing at it with the end of a pencil.
For all the gadgets he has printed, though, it’s a project he finished last month that really has him excited.
“This is my graduation,” he said, while holding up the finished project. “Everything up to this point was practice.”
Buckland managed to print a prosthetic arm for a 3-year-old boy named Robert Noyes, who 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. And it turns out, one of her friends is Buckland’s granddaughter.
“And the magic happened,” Brandi Noyes said. “He has a 3D printer, and he was on board immediately.”
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. “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,” said Buckland, 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 said he hasn’t stopped smiling.
“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, who 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,” Buckland said.
In all, Buckland said the material used to print the arm cost about $25.