How open-source 3D printing is changing the world of assistive technology
The concept of 3D printing, or Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) has actually been around since the early 80s thanks to Dr. Hideo Kodama, with the first 3D printer commercially available in 1986. 3D printing became a revolution in the STEM community with use by engineers, inventors, and even medical professionals when a 3D printed kidney was successfully transplanted to a patient in 1999!
As 3D printing technology became more diverse and affordable, it has continued to gain popularity among scientists, makers, and hobbyists alike. From a 3D printed car to a 3D bioprint of Vincent van Gogh’s ear, it seems creativity is the only limit.
3D printing also increases accessibility with much success in printing casts for broken bones, prosthetic limbs, even wheelchairs that can be customized and created for a fraction of the cost. These are a cost-effective way to keep up with a child as they grow, or damage their current one in the act of being a kid.
Limbitless Solutions, a UCF-based nonprofit organization, dedicated to empowering children through expressive bionic arms at no cost to their families surprises 7-year-old with 3D printed Iron Man prosthetic arm presented by Iron Man himself, a.k.a. Robert Downey Jr.
While it seems almost anything can be 3D printed, it must first be designed and modeled – a process which is often easier said than done. Even that skill is no match for the triumph of the human spirit. Open-source websites have become popular hubs for professionals and makers to freely share their designs.
Websites such as Thingiverse, e-NABLE, and NIH 3D Print Exchange - COVID-19 Supply Chain Response, not only allow designers to help each other improve their work, but makes affordable technology more accessible.
From 3D modeling to soldering a circuit board, The Hive: A Makerspace Presented by The Isaacs Family is one of OSC’s newer exhibits, that focuses on learning new maker skills, as well as new and creative ways to use them. Whether you’re a tech tycoon, or a happy hobbyist, it’s never a bad idea to add another skill to your metaphorical, or literal, toolbelt.