Often, when we think of how makers can help those with special physical needs, we tend to envision the fancy robotic prosthetics that grace so many social media feeds. Those are great, and certainly fun to look at, but for the majority of people, assistive devices appear much more mundane, but are equally life changing.
Items like can openers, easy to grip door handles, and other simple tools can make a massive difference in people’s lives. With modern 3D printing, creating a custom tool for someone that does exactly what they need is incredibly easy, or at least it can be. PrintLab and Makers Making Change have partnered to put out this free course in designing and printing assistive devices, complete with tips on design and even tips on how to interact with someone who you’re helping (the most important tip? Listen to them).
During the 5 part free course, you’ll go through the following:
- An introduction to 3D printed assistive devices through a series a case study videos
- A skill-building session where students follow CAD tutorial videos to design a range of example devices
- A hands-on activity where students test and analyse a range of example devices, which are created by the teacher prior to the lesson using STL files included in the lesson pack
- A human-centred team activity where students identify a user and brainstorm the day-to-day challenges this type of person will face
- Unique concept designs are then developed in response to the challenges and a 3D printed prototype is manufactured and tested
- Students prepare and present their devices to the rest of the class and peer feedback is given
- Successful models can be uploaded to the Makers Making Change platform and builds can be requested by people with disabilities. These may be manufactured by the school or local makers.
If you’ve got a printer, or access to one, I highly recommend you give this a try. People commonly lament that they feel they can’t make a difference and I can tell you from experience that when you make a custom tool that changes an individual’s life for the better, you’ve made a difference and it feels awesome.