Since I posted a blog about 3D printing in 2014, technology using 3D printing has continued to benefit disabled persons in increasing their independence and daily activities. One of the benefits of 3D printing for people with disabilities is that the tools or parts can be quickly produced and customized for individual needs. Some designers find that it is less expensive than purchasing assistive technology devices.
Don Fredette, an adaptive equipment specialist, uses a 3D printer to make items such as customized wheelchair joysticks, control knobs, and cup holders at the Boston Home, a residence for Care of adults with advanced neurological diseases. In addition, he has also made the following 3D printed items.
- Cradles for voice-controlled television remotes
- Chin switches for calling aids
- Holders for communication devices like phones and tablets
- Cell phones
Another example of 3D printer beneficiary is Christopher Hills of Australia. This nineteen-year-old owns his business called Switched-On Video Editing. He uses Final Cut Pro software and edits films with customized 3D printed switches that he controls by moving his head.
In addition, 3D printing is helping to create more advanced products. Scientists, engineers, and physicians have been developing and building 3D-printable prosthetics and the next generation of bionic limbs that can be fully customized.
Open Bionics made a custom fit a 3D printed robotic arm with hand for Daniel, who was born without a right arm. They scanned his arm using a 3D sensor, created a 3D mesh of it, and printed a custom-fitted socket and robotic hand. The robotic prosthetics arm gave Daniel the ability to write, pick up things, and shake hands – abilities to do these tasks which most of us take for granted.
3D Printed Prosthetic Costs Way Less Than Alternatives – BTF
The MIT Media Lab’s Bio mechatronics group led by Hugh Herr has been developing wearable robotic systems that serve to augment and enhance human physical capability. Hugh Herr himself lost both legs to frostbite when he was younger. Here is a YouTube video where Hugh Herr talks about the next generation of bionic limbs, and robotic prosthetics.
New Bionics Let Us Run, Climb and Dance | Hugh Herr | TED Talks
Today scientists are proving the feasibility of ‘printing’ replacement tissues (February 15, 2016 ScienceDaily), and high-tech companies have teamed up to test a 3D bio-printer to print cardio and vascular structures in zero gravity (June, 2016). 3D printers are helping all of us grasp tomorrow’s technology today.
B-Roll: First Heart Structure 3D Printed in Zero Gravity With Adult Human Stem Cells (published 2016)