University of Pittsburgh explore the possibilities of 3D printing for war veterans.
From this Friday nations around the world will unite in their annual commemoration of the First World War, with days marking Remembrance, Armistice and Veterans respectively in the Commonwealth, Allied territories and the US. Though this year marks almost 100 years since the ceasefire, disability gained in areas of conflict, and indeed from even broader causes, are still something that the world endeavours to find life-improving solutions for.
The Veterans Affairs (VA) Research and Development program in Washington DC, was recently in conversation with Dr. Brad Dicianno and Garrett Grindle of Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) at the Univeristy of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to explore the possibilities of using 3D printing to help disabled veterans.
HERL have been using 3D printing technologies in their development for around 15 years now, but Dr. Dicianno and Grindle pointed out that the improvements 3D printing brings to the manufacture of supports has not been properly assessed in current literature. In a review for the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Journal they, along with two other researchers, analyzed the 7 different types of additive manufacturing and their implication in 20 cases of assistive technology and orthoses (support items) and prostheses (attachable articles) manufacturing.
One of the studies the researchers looked at is called 3D printed prototype for casting ergonomic wheelchair pushrims(Medola, 2012). Pushrims are the rings that wheelchair users use to push themselves along. That survey showed that 100% of participants preferred the 3D printed equivalent of their standard pushrims, with 67% finding it “very easy” to move with them, and 33% only “somewhat easier”. Though contrasting evidence was also found, Dr. Dicianno et al. eventually determined that 3D printing for all three sectors is ultimately worthwhile.
Earlier in the year, when 3DPI reported on Polina Rožkova, the fencer who had 3D printed back brace to compete in the Rio Paralympics, this advantage was also evident. It may be the case that orthoses are better when 3D printed due to the necessity of them being custom made, whereas with assistive technology and prosthetics, specific customization isn’t so important as their durability and ability to perform their given task.
In their talk with VA research currents, Dicianno/Grindle concluded that,
Tools are only as good as the people using them. If the proper investment is made in training, research and development, and access to the machines, then we will likely see 3D printing solve many modest problems and transformationally change a few others.
3D printing or Additive manufacturing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. 3D printing is also considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes).
A 3D printer is a limited type of industrial robot that is capable of carrying out an additive process under computer control.
While 3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s, it was not until the early 2010s that the printers became widely available commercially. The first working 3D printer was created in 1984 by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp. Since the start of the 21st century there has been a large growth in the sales of these machines, and their price has dropped substantially. According to Wohlers Associates, a consultancy, the market for 3D printers and services was worth $2.2 billion worldwide in 2012, up 29% from 2011.[
The 3D printing technology is used for both prototyping and distributed manufacturing with applications in architecture, construction (AEC), industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, civil engineering, dental and medical industries, biotech (human tissue replacement), fashion, footwear, jewelry, eyewear, education, geographic information systems, food, and many other fields. One study has found that open source 3D printing could become a mass market item because domestic 3D printers can offset their capital costs by enabling consumers to avoid costs associated with purchasing common household objects.
3D Printable Models
3D printable models may be created with a computer aided design package or via 3D scanner. The manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics is similar to plastic arts such as sculpting. 3D scanning is a process of analyzing and collecting data of real object; its shape and appearance and builds digital, three dimensional models.