Thinking Tech

Disabled Chinese farmer builds his own bionic arms

Disabled Chinese farmer builds his own bionic arms

Posting in Technology

After losing his arms in a bomb explosion, Sun Jifa pieced together a pair of functioning limbs using scrap metal.

You know that famous saying "Necessity is the mother of invention." Well, you won't find a truer example of this than in the case of a Chinese farmer named Sun Jifa.

The 51-year-old resident of Guanmashan in northern China had to come up with something after losing his arms when a bomb used for blast fishing accidently exploded. Unfortunately, he couldn't afford replacement prosthetics that would allow him to tend to the farm and support his family. So he did what any Chinese farmer in his situation would do. He built his own set of bionic arms.

After eight years of tinkering, Jifa was finally able to weld and piece together a pair of steel arms in which the hands can do a sufficient job of gripping and holding onto objects. The mechanics of how this works involves an intricate system of wired and pulleys, according to The Daily Mail.

The only complication, he says, is that the metal is not only heavy, but they can also get extremely hot or cold depending on the weather, making them uncomfortable to wear for an extended length of time.

Despite the drawbacks, the raw materials are cheap and can be crafted with simple tools. Because of this, Jifa plans to develop similar bionic prosthetics for the poor and disabled.

'I made this from scrap metal for virtually nothing. There is no need to pay hospitals a fortune,' he said.

I know it sounds like a plot from a Sci-Fi movie. But since Jifa's extrordinary story surfaced through international news outlets, he's also appeared on talk shows to discuss his invention. What I'm curious about is that without a set of working arms, how was he able to build the replacements? Perhaps he gives an answer during the on-camera interview. Too bad I don't understand Mandarin.

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure