Boy with one arm learns to play drums with the help of his father

Boy, six, who had an arm amputated at 10 days old learns to play the drums after his father made him a 3D-printed ‘hand’ to allow him to hold sticks with his prosthesis

  • Delighted one-armed six-year-old pictured banging drums he got for Christmas
  • Sol Smith-Ryan, 6, from Anglesey, has had his drumming dream has come true  
  • He wants to follow the footsteps of one-armed Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen

A boy who had an arm amputated after just 10 days has learnt to play the drums after his father made him a 3d-printed ‘hand’ to let him hold the sticks with his prosthetic arm.  

Sol Smith-Ryan, six, from Anglesey, had his drumming dream has come true after his father created an attachment that snaps the drumsticks in place.

He is now hoping to follow in the footsteps of famous one-armed drummer, Rick Allen, who plays for Sheffield rock band, Def Leppard.

But Rick Allen, 58, plays his drums using foot pedals.

Dad Ben Ryan said: ‘Sol has always wanted to play the drums and he got a set for Christmas.

Sol Smith-Ryan, 6, (pictured) has had his drumming dream has come true after his father created an attachment that snaps the drumsticks in place

‘It is great that he’s already got a good role model, to know his own disability needn’t hold him back.

‘I like to think that we’ve now gone one better, with the use of technology, to be able to let him play with two hands.’

Amazingly, this attachment is one of three that Sol can fix to his 3D printed bionic modular arm, which allows him to mix and match accessories to select the right tool for the job.

It’s the first of its kind in the world.

The active schoolboy’s list of abilities grows as his devoted 44-year-old dad made it his mission to create a life as full as possible for his son after he had his left arm amputated at 10 days old.

The self-taught engineer’s latest pioneering creation, which he finalised in December 2021, is a moveable rubber lightweight hand that opens and closes like puppetry – using cables attached to a strap on his right shoulder.

Sol uses it alongside an NHS issue Lego-type hand that can slot onto a handlebar to ride his scooter, and his drumstick holder.

Ben’s aim is that the new fusion printed hand, made of rubber, and feels soft like leather, will be able to do all the jobs once Sol is used to it.

Dad Ben Ryan said: ‘Sol has always wanted to play the drums and he got a set for Christmas’

Ben said: ‘While some might think it was created for more intricate detail, it was actually designed with sports in mind, the grippier fingers would allow a user to throw a football onto the pitch two handed, for example, and to take part in matches with a much lighter weight attachment.’

The hand weighs just 166g. An adult human hand weighs 460g, with the lightest bionic hand being 500g.

The hand is like a ‘Simpsons’ hand’ with a thumb and three fingers – less parts to go wrong and fall off.

Ben said: ‘The hand is made using a combination of HP MultiJet fusion nylon parts, and expanded rubber printed from a desktop printer – meaning the hand has incredible strength but with the soft feel of leather.

‘Movement is inspired by Victorian techniques that use your own body power to operate, giving intuitive and faster power to the hand.

‘There are no motors or electronics involved, which means the technology is less likely to break and is much cheaper – it can even go in water.’

Sol wants to follow in the footsteps of one-armed Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen (pictured in 2012)

He started on the hand once he was happy with his previous design – a 3D printed prosthetic arm that can be upgraded with newly scanned 3D sockets – the part that attaches to a stump.

This means a child doesn’t have to have a completely new arm every time there is growth, it could last a full year with three to four socket changes.

You can also add different attachments to it.

Ben was a psychology teacher until he and wife, Katie Smith, 41, who works for the NHS, from Menai Bridge on the Welsh island of Anglesey, were dealt the blow that Sol would have to lose his arm after birth.

Ben’s own research discovered children function better when they have prosthetics as soon as possible.

Faced with NHS waiting lists the father-of-two came up with the genius idea of making his own.

Amazingly he did this using an X-Box scanner and a 3D printer and it’s lucky he did, by the time Sol’s NHS arm arrived after 11-months, he had already grown out of it.

From this heart-warming demonstration of love, Ben took up his ambition full-time and has set up his own not-for-profit company, Ambionics Ltd.

His aim now is to provide prosthetics and education to children across the world for a small cost.

Ben said: ‘Yes, we can all accept our differences but if a child grows up without use of a second arm and an uneven weight distribution then they can have a multitude of problems from a weakened stump to arthritis, poor circulation, to curvature of the spine and nerve issues in adulthood.

‘It’s also giving your child confidence – there is a high level of depression and suicide in the amputee community and prosthetics allow a child to grow living a life as full as they wish it to be.’

Sol not only climbs and swims, but he rides his bike, plays football and loves karate too.

He loves play fighting with his younger brother, Dex, four.

Children who need a hand or an arm, legs or authotics (corrective braces) can contact Ben who can either provide them with the skills to make their own on his YouTube channel Ambionic UK or they can buy them from him at a fraction of the cost.

Ben is appealing for corporate sponsors and donations from well-wishers for his amazing venture.

To donate please visit

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