3D Printing Helps Teens Build Better Wheelchair
26th January 2015
If you spend any time in a wheelchair, you need to be happy with it. All some people need is a bit of extra padding, some need splash out on a new paint job and a few accessories to make it represent them. However for 16 year old Mohammad Sayed, that just wasn’t enough he wanted more.
Already a student at NuVU in Cambridge, MassachusettsMohammed was in the right place. Students at the ‘experimental high school’ reduce their traditional courses of English and Math to complete several practice projects. Honing skills in more hands on subjects such as manufacturing, engineering and design. They have showcased projects producing alternative and more stable crutches and even a prosthetic hand that can write.
So he set to work hacking and modifying his own wheelchair using his 3D printing and design skills to completely transform his chair. Along with a few classmates they built Mohammed everything he needed – adding on a Laptop tray and a canopy with accessible storage. However showing what is possible they redesigned the chair to be propelled by a rowing motion rather than the normal pushing.
Now they may not be the first person to try a rowing wheelchair, but they are the first to make the whole process ‘cheap’ and easily available. The students claim that each part of the conversion only costs around $3 to make, all that’s needed is the metal bar to row yourself to your destination. That being said the 3D printer will set you back a fair few digits from your bank balance.
“If you are someone with atrophy and the muscles you would use to push with your biceps are getting weaker, allowing for different types of movement could mean the difference between continuing in a manual wheelchair or being forced to convert to a power wheelchair,” – Mohammad Sayed
The design is enabled with a racket system that will enable movement both backwards and forwards, although this came with several headaches. “none of us are mechanical engineers, so we went with the guess-and-check method.” added Kate Reed, 16. A true feat when considering the age and experience of some of the students.
The really shows the ability of the students given extra attention in different areas. Mohammed added that this experimental high school had helped him not just with his practical work. Sayed was open with what the school has done for him. “Before NuVu, I didn’t do well in groups, because as a creative person you always push your own ideas, Communication was sometimes a challenge, but now I’ve learned.”
Projects such as this really do push things that are becoming more possible with easily available design software and a 3D printer. All of the work is being open sourced, so you could take the designs and convert your own chair with the help of a 3D printing company. Although it wouldn’t be covered on our insurance!