3D Printing Is a Big Help for Little Guys

26. November 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments (0)

As we get older, we tend to accept that there are some things in life that are out of our control; the best we can do is try to be prepared for them. Although we can't be prepared for every injury, we can learn from those we've already had and try to help those who are unable to help themselves.

Fortunately, the ways we can help others are being greatly improved by advances in technology. Conditions thought to be permanent just a few years ago can now be mended in a variety of ways. The following stories are about little ones who got big help from advances in 3D printing.

Puppy Love

From the moment Tumbles was born, his life wasn't easy. This adorable pup was born without his two front legs, and could not be nursed by his mother along with the rest of his litter. Hopes weren't very high for Tumbles when he was brought to an animal shelter in Athens, OH. But when a photo of the puppy went viral, his chances for a better life improved.

puppy in wheelchair
Image via IFLScience.

When the Ohio University Innovation Center learned about Tumbles, they saw a way they could help. Within fourteen hours, the Innovation Center designed and 3D-printed a special wheelchair-style apparatus for him. Tumbles is still getting used to being so mobile, but everybody is impressed by how quickly he's adapted. As shelter president Angela Marx put it, "He's a little sweetheart and doesn't act as if he has any limitations."

Hands Together

Before John Shull joined the Rochester Institute of Technology, he was put off by how prohibitive it was to procure prosthetics, especially for children. With the average attachment costing upwards of forty thousand dollars, many never received the help necessary to simplify their daily lives.

prosthetics and a laptop computer
Image via PBS.

At the Rochester Institute of Technology in Upstate New York, Shull and his associates have dedicated themselves to creating free, fully functional 3D-printed prosthetics for children. Although the materials used aren't as high-grade as those used in expensive, top-of-the-line models, Shull says that they're more adaptable to children who are still growing. "It doesn't make sense to spend $40,000 on something they're going to outgrow in a year."

It's important to Shull that the children receiving the prosthetics not be solely defined by them. The bespectacled inventor says, "If I didn't have glasses in a world in which there's lots of fine print, I would be disabled. As it is, I'm just a guy who wears glasses."

Little Things Matter Most

Youths adapt to their environment and circumstances far more quickly than adults, and it's that sort of adaptation that inspires people of all ages to achieve more. Although unforeseen factors can inhibit one's abilities, they can also inspire the very innovations that enable us to overcome those conditions.

Give Them a Hand

27. August 2015 13:57 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments (0)

It's said that the first five years of a child's life are, developmentally, the most important. These are the years when children begin to develop their motor skills, personality, and outlook, and it's crucial that children be given every opportunity to meet their full potential.

Not all children are born with the advantages of their peers. Thankfully, advances in technology are helping disadvantaged children stand on equal footing with their classmates and friends. The following stories look at how that 3D-printing technology is helping children with disabilities during these crucial developmental years.

Field of Dreams

It's not easy for a sports fan to steal attention from seasoned athletes, but that's just what happened on August 17th when five-year-old Hailey Dawson—one the Orioles' biggest fans—threw the ceremonial First Pitch with her new 3D-printed arm.

Hailey has a condition known as Poland Syndrome. Her right arm stopped developing while she was still in the womb.

Hailey's parents did extensive research into prosthetics, but quickly found them to be expensive and unable to adapt to a child's growth. That's when Hailey's mother turned to the University of Nevada Las Vegas, whose engineering students were more than happy to help. Using a free online design, the students printed and assembled an arm for Hailey, adorned with the logo and colors of her favorite team. The entire process cost $20.

"[The 3D-printed hand] is operated by wrist movement," says Hailey's mother, Yong. When Hailey's wrist goes to a down motion, the fingers will grasp and when it goes in the up motion, the fingers release." Although Hailey is too young to play professionally, don't be surprised if one day she and her new arm are part of the Orioles' starting line-up!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Just like Hailey, Isabella was born with an underdeveloped limb. Her parents also researched prosthetics only to find them financially prohibitive and developmentally insensitive. Isabella's case caught the attention of Stephen Davies, a fellow congenital amputee and member of Team UnLimbited.

Davies personally delivered Isabella's new arm. (He shot the above video, too, which briefly features his own 3D-printed left hand popping into frame.) The donation is part of a larger campaign by E-Nable to deliver prosthetic limbs to more than 1,000 children in need worldwide. If Isabella's reaction is any indication, they'll also be delivering countless smiles.

The Shape of Things to Come

As both of the preceding stories have shown, two of the most frequent obstacles for those

in need of prosthetics are the issues of cost and adaptability. As innovative as the new technologies may be, these two issues will often keep them out of reach of the people who need them most.

Joel Gibbard, a 25-year-old grad student born and raised in Great Britain as a congenital amputee, decided to design and build his own mechanical hand. He founded the company OpenBionics, which specializes in creating affordable, motorized 3D-printed limbs.

"We're using lower-cost motors than they have in high-end devices, so the overall strength is lower," says Gibbard. The average model produced by OpenBionics could cost around $5,000. That's considerably cheaper than industrial models, which cost as much as $95,000 apiece. With newly found support by Disney's TechStars Accelerator program, OpenBionics hopes to begin selling their models to the public some time next year.

Looking Forward

Technology is defined not by its invention, but by its use. Children adapt to new technologies and surroundings more quickly than adults. Somewhere in between, the human gift for innovation combines with natural development to ensure equal opportunities for everybody involved.

3-D Printing our Missing Pieces

3-D printing continues to be one of the most prolific modern technologies, used in everything from art and cuisine to construction and space travel. Yet the extent of its possible uses is only beginning to be explored. We’ve already mentioned how the technology has been used for controversial means, such as printing weapons and “transporting” items, but there have been just as many inspiring uses. With the recent news of scientists using 3-D printing to create living tissue, there has been movement to create missing body parts for those in need.

More...

Month List