If there’s one group of people who can really benefit from the advantages of digital fabrication, and in particular 3D Printing, then it’s those living with disabilities.

This is a group of people who are not generally well-served by the benefits of mass-produced parts because their problems are often very unique. They usually require a low volume or one-off solution and consequently there is often very little support from traditional manufacturing industries to address their needs.

The ability to design quickly in the latest 3D creation software and then make bespoke one-off or low volume solutions with 3D Printing is the perfect application for the latest 3D digital technologies.

With¬†this in mind Ultimaker GB / CREATE Education Project attended the ‚ÄúIn The¬†Making‚Ä̬†http://www.inthemaking.org.uk¬†event at Salford¬†University in Media City, Manchester on 17th¬†June.

This conference was arranged to explore the possibilities of digital fabrication and disability, and was a great opportunity to discuss and understand the type of needs that can be met with 3D printing.

During the event we were approached by a wheelchair-user named Kit who expressed to us a particular problem which she wanted to see if we could resolve. On her electric chair there was no place that could hold the travel mug that she was carrying when she was moving around, and this was clearly a source of frustration for her.

After a quick discussion around what could be a solution, and a measurement of the wheelchair arm and the travel mug, I set to work using Autodesk Fusion 360. Just 10 minutes later, after defining a 2D sketch and then extruding that sketch by 20mm, the design was ready for 3D printing.

2D Sketch in Fusion 360

3D clip design in Fusion 360

Photo-rendering of clip in Fusion 360

Photo-rendering of clip in Fusion 360

Then using the method of transferring the part from Fusion 360 to Cura that you can see here http://autode.sk/1YniOG7the part was very quickly prepared for 3D Printing.

These pictures show the part being 3D Printed, and less than an hour later we had a part that was ready to test out.

First reaction was that the fit onto the armrest was ok, but the cradle for the travel mug was a little too shallow. A thirty second tweak of the 2D sketch resulted in this modified version that had a deeper cradle.

This second clip was printed and this time it was a great fit.

Kit¬†described the result as ‚Äúlife-changing‚ÄĚ which reflected how she¬†saw the ability to recognise a particular problem and in the space¬†of¬†just a couple of hours to have designed and made a functional¬†solution.¬†For her the solution was probably priceless, yet the¬†final¬†version of clip had cost just 23 pence to produce which, for a¬†one-off functional part, was astonishing.

For myself, and Jack and Jess from Ultimaker GB, it was a great feeling and a really powerful example of how 3D printing can be of significant benefit to the disabled community.

So what about the Elephant Clip reference in the title? Well that idea came from Kit, and you may have already spotted it for yourself, as she recognised the profile was very similar to the shape of an elephant, so what other name could we give it!

The¬†Elephant Clip really proved that 3D Printing has a great future in¬†it‚Äôs ability to provide individual solutions for those with¬†disabilities¬†‚Ästthe exciting thing is we‚Äôve only just started!

Steve Cox
Education Ambasssador
CREATE Education Project

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