Useful 3D printer patterns?

3D printing is one of those technologies full of promise which has yet to prove that ubiquitous adoption is worthwhile. [Sound familiar?] The promise is that we will be able to download patterns for useful things and print them at home, saving the costs of mass production and distribution and, at the same time, enabling customisation for each user. One has the impression that most of the things produced so far have a toy-like quality but in the following item we see the green shoots of the promise becoming reality. Normal game controllers are too difficult for people with weak muscles to use and purpose-built light-touch ones are expensive, then along comes 3D printing and someone with the vision to use it to produce low cost controllers for people with muscle impairments. Building custom game controllers for the disabled ( Hat tip to Nicholas Robinson.

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  1. I would like to introduce to you a project that I think might have address some of your concerns regarding the adoption of 3D Printing for disabled people.

    The current focus for assistive technologies is on the ageing society and individuals with long-term conditions. However, there is a significant unmet need to satisfy the requirements of younger users who are not just passive consumers but who judge assistive technologies in the same way they would the latest gadget or iPhone.

    Hereward College is an innovative FE College catering for students with complex needs. They have 60 residential and over 260 day students with a range of physical, sensory and cognitive abilities. As early adopters of innovative assistive technologies, embedded in the students is a residual expertise around the design, aesthetics and ergonomics of assistive technologies that is currently untapped. Although many may not currently be Science or Engineering oriented they have opinions about the services and products that they use.

    Warwick Manufacturing Group (Warwick University) has expertise in 3D design and manufacture. 3D printing technology offers an affordable way to reach individualised and customizable design solutions. The use of this technology is very timely, with the recent emergence of low-cost 3D Printers – this couldn’t have been possible 2-3 years ago. The Department of Computer Science, through the Intelligent and Adaptive Systems Research Group, has expertise in how devices and software can be adapted to individual needs.

    This project can and will enable individuals to develop highly bespoke and cost effective solutions at a fraction of the cost of traditional assistive technologies.

    We have already made our first bracket for a communication aid and can proivide images if you want.

    Kind regards


  2. We at the clinical engineering department of Addenbrookes hospital have been introducing this technology into the design and manufacture of bespoke and generic medical assistive devices. It is an incredibly exciting technology that requires us to embrace it and be cautious of it in equal measure. Responsible design from qualified biomedical engineers is essential in the provision of effective and safe assistive technology that conforms to international standards. It almost makes if all a little too easy! We are really encouraged that this technology will and has made individualised access solutions possible in a responsive and cost effective way. Addenbrookes clinical engineering design service will continue to utilise and grow this technology for our clients. Dr Thomas Stone, clinical scientist

  3. 3D printing technology is a very powerful tool for the generation of prototypes to determine long term functionality. Our experience with these thus far is that they can be less robust than a commercially moulded product. The exciting aspect is that relatively cost effective low volume tooling can be created from these printed parts, once their surface finish has been prepared and finished appropriately. Our own one handed handset for the PlayStation 3 console began life in just this manner. When coupled with data capture devices that allow the collection of anatomical data from more traditionally created plaster or other moulding materials, the 3D printing process would be ideal for the manufacture of one-off shapes to meet clinically specific technology access solutions. Simple desktop 3D polymer printing system can now be purchased from as little as £2000.