3D Human Touch
Today I remember a day in my childhood when I was learning to solder two wires at my dad’s workshop. There were no clips or stands that could assist me to hold the wires. Much of my concentration was on holding them close with one hand while I was handling the hot soldering iron. After several failed attempts an observing assistant at the workshop came to my rescue. He held the wires together while I did the soldering. 1… 2… 3… 4 and done. By fifth attempt I did and within no time I mastered it. There on, I am on my own holding the wires with one hand and handling the soldering with another. That little help from a pair of hands was very critical in mastering the feet.
We all do realise, at times how important is it to have someone help us when in need. This is exactly what I felt when I heard of a real life help extended by to a kid for making her do thing on her own. However, this time it is I felt beyond mere thankfulness. It was touching.
“3D printed ‘Exoskeleton’ lets a little girl lift her arms and play”. This is about a sweet little girl Emma, was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC) a condition that causes stiff joints and very underdeveloped muscles. After multiple surgeries during her first two years and with the support of her determined mother Megan, Emma started to move with the help of a walker. Then comes Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX), an assistive device made out of hinged metal bars and resistance bands that enables kids with underdeveloped arms to play and feed themselves. WREX is developed by Nemours.org. The team at WREX strapped Emma’s little arms into a small but awkward trial WREX attached to a stationary support. Emma started throwing her hands around and playing. Megan brought Emma candy and toys and watched her lift her arms toward her mouth for the first time.
“To be a part of that little special moment for someone else, can’t help but tug at your heart strings.” — Whitney Sample, research design engineer.
I couldn’t stop feeling that incredible first moment of Emma and Megan. Freedom of movement is something irreplaceable for Emma. Now she will grow to move as freely as we all can and I call this as an Additive Human Touch.
So what has Additive Manufacturing 3D printing got to do in this whole story? Well WREX was not mobile. It was attached to a stationary device. While it could help Emma move her hands, Emma was held near the device. To make WREX mobile its size and weight have to be reduced. Making and sampling with CNC or molding is expensive. This is exactly where Additive manufacturing was helpful. Using a 3D printer the researchers could quickly make lighter, durable and custom fit WREX parts for Emma. The ability to tweak the design and accommodate very intricate and complex shapes added with the flexibility of making it in a 3D printer without any cutting, shaping, molding or casting comes handy. Converting the idea and testing it quickly shortens the road to success. One doesn’t have to order and wait for a manufacturer to make the objects. 3D printer sits next to you and starts working with a click of a button. After an hour or so, the unattended printer is ready with the part. Investment in time and materials are substantially reduced.?
‘The 3D-printed WREX turned out to be durable enough for everyday use. Emma wears it at home, at preschool, and during occupational therapy. And the design flexibility of 3D printing lets Sample continually improve upon the assertive device, working out ideas in CAD and building them the same day.’ The article quoted
Further the advantage comes when a replaced is required for a part that has broken or worn off. Just call the doctor, tell the patient’s name and part description and it will be ready to collect shortly. Another advantage is the flexibility of scaling either in size or numbers. Together, these capabilities create freedom of innovation.