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Industry Insights| 3D Printing Provides the Disabled with 8 Practical Applications

The disabled will encounter a lot of inconvenience in their daily life. As technology revolutionizes, 3D printing can benefit the disabled owing to the superior advantages such as customization, quick prototyping, cost-saving. 3D printed wheelchairs, prosthetics, and orthotics make it possible for the disabled to enjoy a better life.

3D Printed Wheelchairs
Wheelwear, developed by the UK-based company Disrupt Disability, is a modular wheelchair that you can constantly customize in accordance with your body and your preferred fashion. The wheelchair is equipped with a quick-release mechanism for easy seat, backrest, front wheel, and pedal, which greatly helps the disabled to easily use and control the wheelchair. For disabled people, wheelchairs are like their shoes. Most people can’t afford as many customized wheelchairs as they have pairs of shoes! They are actually disabled by their wheelchair not by their legs. Here Disrupt Disability utilized 3D printing to make the customized wheelchair much affordable. It enables people to create new modules at a reasonable cost to adapt to people's changing needs and preferences without the need to make a new wheelchair.

3D Printed Bionic Arm

Hero Arm, developed by the UK-based company Open Bionics , a lightweight and affordable 3D printed myoelectric prosthesis, which is also a bionic device that helps amputees recover lost functionality. The specially designed 3D printed prosthesis can perform moves of grab, pinch, high-five, fist bump, thumbs-up, and etc. The 13-year-old bionic girl Tilly Lockey in the above pics, who was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when I was only 15 months old, becomes an independent person via the support of 3D printed Hero Arm.

3D Printed Prosthetics

e-NABLE is an online global community of “Digital Humanitarian” volunteers from all over the world who are using their 3D printers to make free and low-cost prosthetic upper limb devices for children and adults in need. The community is made up of approximately 2,000 volunteers who come together to work on a variety of methods to help improve open source 3D printable designs for hands and arms as well as 3D printing. These 3D printed prostheses are free or very cheap, and about 8,000 recipients have benefited from the work and work of the e-NABLE community.

3D Printed Map

Virtuoz, developed by a France-based startup FeelObject, is the first interactive and tactile 3D printed map designed for visually impaired people and the blind, enabling them to move independently in and around buildings. The map is made on an FDM 3D printer, which can be customized based on users’ demands. The 3D printed map indicates landmarks such as emergency exits and toilets with different shapes and symbols. When pressing on the corresponding keys, people will get audio information that will guide them to the destination.

3D Printed Portable Table

ThisAble, a project developed by IKEA, includes various 3D printed furniture extensions, which can be fixed to cabinets, sofas, shower curtains, etc. to make the daily life of people with disabilities easier. There are 13 models available online for free download. Those 3D printed furniture extensions such as 3D printed sofa lift can help the disabled to sit or stand easier. The 3D printed window bumpers can prevent from possible hitting.

3D Printed Painting

Prado Museum utilizes 3D printing to make touchable 3D printed painting, which allows blind people to appreciate the beauty of art. Back in October, Creality 3D has announced an exclusive sponsorship with a Spain-based company Twin Force on their special project THEA, that strives to make art, especially pictorial art, accessible to the blind with 3D printing technology. Up until now, Twin Force has completed some 3D-printed art masterpieces with the latest CR-10 V2 3D printer exclusively sponsored by Creality 3D.

3D Printables for Surgeries

Microtia is a type of ear deformity that currently appears at a rate of 1/15000. Its main feature is hypoplasia of the auricle. The more marks there are, the greater the impact on human hearing. Usually, only one ear is affected, and the other ear is fully functional. Scottish doctors use 3D scanning to replicate patient-friendly implants: they scan a functional ear, model it and create a prototype to reconstruct the implant.

3D Printed Hearing Aids

H (Earring) is a collection of hearing aids, which is closer to the jewelry collection than well-known hearing aids. The project was created by French photographer Kate, who has been hearing impaired for 25 years. Two designers, Flora and Julie, participated in FandD Studio, and they decided to create the project. With the help of 3D scanners, they managed to find complex models and began to accurately model hearing aids. Most prosthetics currently on the market are trying to cover up disability, and the goal of H (earrings) is exactly the opposite, namely to expose it aesthetically and not aggressively.