3D printing has successfully been used in the design of customized prosthetic aids for people with disabilities, replacement body parts, and personalized medical devices. Now Eliza Wrobel, a biomedical engineer, has employed additive manufacturing methods to enhance the usefulness of the walker for sufferers of limb disabilities who wish to remain active.
The prototype of her four-wheel, multi-use walker was designed using a ZMorph 2.0 SX 3D multitool printer and the ZMorph’s own digital fabrication software known as Voxelizer. The prototype served as a proof of concept model and this means she can pitch her creative design for additional support and development.
The ZMorph 2.0 SX 3D printer is a state-of-the-art, fast prototyping device, and it features interchangeable toolheads to allow for tasks such as CNC ( computer numerical control) milling and cutting, laser engraving, thick paste extruding and single/double material 3D printing. Furthermore, it supports various printing materials and this allows the designer to select materials for prototypes with similar characteristics as the ones that will be used in the final product. The new model has a quicker worktable switching system with a magnet mounting system and it makes it easy to change from 3D to CNC. The frame was printed through silver ABS to simplify production, while black and yellow PLA was applied to parts that needed toughening. Even the brakes, arm pads and wheels were 3D-printed with flex filament, a black material that looks like rubber.
Just like many standard walkers, Eliza Wrobel's walker prototype features arm supports, hand-activated breaks, a cup holder and a foot rest. There is also a shopping cart with switch-out and baby seat extras-potentially giving users additional independence by ensuring disabled persons are able to perform daily tasks and even get the chance to take a baby relative for a walk. On the other hand, it maintains the primary functions of a walker such as an adjustable height. The ZMorph 2.0 SX printer enabled the creation of a prototype model in a scale of 1:2 and it is hoped it will go into production one day. With extra work and more 3D printing, it is anticipated that the designer can produce a robust functional prototype.
Eliza Wrobel was also in the news a few months ago after she used the same printer to create a revolving 3D bookshelf. Prior to that, she had also used a ZMorph 2.0 S Hybrid printer to design an orthosis for a 33-year-old man who had an accident and was afflicted by tetraplegia (partial or total paralysis of the body’s four limbs). The device allowed the man to play table tennis, his favorite sport , and also hold light dumbbells and grab various objects.This type of 3D printing is beneficial since it involves relatively low costs and quick production time which means ideas can quickly be implemented.
In total, more than one hundred pieces were used during the prototype’s construction, including 3-D printed components, a hand-tailored cushion, screws, straps and some wire. It is still unclear whether the prototype will attain full size and go into production, but the ZMorph company states that it demonstrates the important role played by 3D printing during the production development process.