How 3D Printers are Assisting Disabled People in Their Everyday Lives

Disclaimer: If you are intent on making 3D Printed items for anyone with a disability, do so at your own risk and with proper guidance from the patient’s physician. Safety should always a top priority with 3D Printers. Please continue at your own risk.

Have you ever watched a race, whether live or on television and realis ed that the one racing is disabled? Maybe, they have a limb missing or some other type of disability. Another amazing feat is watching contestants in the Special Olympics. These people are considered to be disabled, but time and time again, they surprise everyone by accomplishing so much. Although it is sheer determination that is often the driving force behind such remarkable opportunities, 3D Printing is doing its part as well. Here are just some of the ways 3D Printers are helping those that would be otherwise disabled, accomplish their dreams.

Giving Sight to Those Without

Losing sight is one thing that many people fear. However, the human body is highly adaptive when one or more of its senses become interrupted. A person who loses their sight will ultimately see the world through touch. Braille has been the traditional way to read for blind people and has allowed them to become engrossed in the written word just like anyone else. Braille books have been published for many years and even public venues often have braille signs available for the visually impaired, but is that really enough? The answer is no and 3D Printing is working to change the rules a bit.

Braille books are remarkable and a wonderful tool for the blind, but what about the world of art? This visual stimulating aspect of life is often lost on a blind person and they are limited to having others explain what is going on in the picture. No matter what they do, they must rely on others in order to understand the art work and that is not a way to empower the individual. A new study for the 3D Printing industry is working to adapt to the visual needs of the blind public by providing a way for them to explore museums and even their city without fear.

Museums are now providing raised line depictions of popular art pieces through the power of 3D Printing. Additionally, cities are using the same technology through 3D Printed displays to help blind individuals explore their cities through their hands without ever having to leave their home. Although it is relatively new, it is opening new eyes to blind individuals and allowing them to essentially see more than they have been able to.

3D Print Materials

3D Printed library cards with braille to help blind patrons understand what their library card has on it.

Sensory Stimulation Devices

So much emphasis in today’s world is based upon what something looks like. It is easy to see when a person has lost an appendage or has a physical disability, but what about those who do not wear their disability needs right out in the open? Mental disorders are some of the most debilitating disabilities we, as humans, can face because science still knows so little about the innerworkings of the human mind.

Disabilities such as Autism, PTSD, and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) affects people from all walks of life and every age. Contending with these issues is often left up to the pharmaceutical companies with limited success. However, research into the minds of these types of mental disabilities has revealed a surprising fact. The brain needs a certain level of stimulant in order to process the world around them. That is where 3D Printers are proving very effective.

Fidget spinners became a huge fad many years ago. The trend has since died down, but the original intent of the famed fidget spinner was not to merely entertain average people, but to give focus to mentally disabled patients. Today, there are a variety of wearable devices that allow an autistic person, PTSD patient or someone with SPD to process their surroundings by tactile stimulation of the device. The devices are often unique to the individual in color, shape, and texture, but have proven remarkably adaptive to help calm nerves and refocus their energy. Thankfully, these devices can be customised to the individual through 3D Printer technology, so patients can find what works for them and help their disability in a truly unique and adaptable way.

Improved Mobility

Often, it is not the absence of limbs that causes a disability in an individual, but an inability to connect the mind with movement in those limbs. Such is the case of patients with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita. This rare neuromuscular condition causes intense muscle weakness and patients often cannot make their arms move enough to feed themselves. The sheer force of gravity keeps movement at minimum for these individuals, but one company has been working to change all of that.

The device is called the WREX and it is completely 3D Printed. It is a device that attaches to the individual to allow them to move their arms once again. Although he initial WREX prototype was designed for full grown adults, it has since been adapted to small children to give them the freedom of movement once more. As the child grows, the WREX can be updated and fashioned specifically to the child giving them a much more productive and prosperous life.

3D Printing UK

The WREX 3D Printed mobility device for limited mobility patients

Why 3D Printing?

For as long as this world has existed, there have been people with physical and mental disabilities. That notion is not set to change anytime soon. We are all individuals and we learn differently, but those with disabilities must adapt to a world that is not exactly suited for them. Where adaptations to the landscape such as handicap ramps and parking facilities, the world is still limited as to what it can offer these individuals. 3D Printers are opening up minds and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities. Just some of the ways 3D Printing has been instrumental in adapting our world for disabled individuals are…

Complete Customisation

Finding out your child has a disability immediately makes you think of what will have to be adjusted for them. Life is not going to conform to them, so you, as a parent, must make a way for your child to have a chance at making it in this big world. 3D Printers are excellent for this notion. Virtually anything can be made for a disabled person given the right design and filament structure. Mechanics can be added to allow for proper mobility and the entire device can be fully adapted to their individual needs like never before.

Cost Cutting

Prosthetics and other disability designed devices are remarkably expensive. Insurance covers some of the need, but often, the brunt of expense lies with the family of the disabled person. Manufacturing individualised prosthetics and often having to produce more as a child grows can be phenomenally expensive, but with 3D Printing each version of the prosthesis or device is far less expensive to produce. Families no longer have to struggle with high manufacturing costs just to see their loved one happy and productive.

Help with Some of the Rarer Disabilities

Certain common disabilities are easier to manage simply because more people know about them. We have all seen someone without a leg or arm and researchers have had many years to discover what works and what does not. However, due to the overbearing cost involved in research and development of devices, some of the rarer disabilities do not get promoted and go un-researched leading to a lot of questions.

3D Printing opens up a world of possibilities for rare disabilities to be studied adequately and their needs adapted to. Researchers can develop devices faster and more effectively without relying on traditional and time consuming manufacturing facilities for help.

Life Changing Possibilities

Imagine for a moment that you were given a diagnosis of some rare and incurable condition. You would have to manage your entire life around the disability and hope that one day, there would be a solution. Until that time, you sit and watch your life go by maintaining that hope. 3D Printing could possibly be that hope come to life for so many.

For generations, patients with disabilities have had to adapt to the world rather than have an option for it to adapt to them. 3D Printers have always had a positive impact on the world, but with all that they can do, they are actually providing life changing possibilities for countless individuals. From a little girl with mobility issues to the kid down the street who has trouble focusing in class just because he is autistic, they can all now have something to help their lives be a little easier. Finally, disabled individuals have a voice and a way to feel more normal in the world, so if you have been thinking of an idea of how you could help someone with a disability, start 3D Printing it today. Your seemingly small idea could potentially change someone’s life for the better.

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