Sometimes beautiful design is a failure. It can be aesthetically pleasing but still fail to take into account a user’s practical needs. 3D printing lets an individual with a particular need work with a designer to fill that gap. The best-known example might be prosthetic hands created by the e-NABLE network that are shared, open source, online with the Thingiverse community. And this award-winning, motorized 3D printed hand is open source, too.
The largest recent effort to meet this need might be the Enable Makeathon, a 60-day challenge that teams people with disabilities from the developing world with engineers, designers, and makers. Demo Day for things made onsite in Bangalore and worldwide will be held Jan. 23.
Enable Makeathon is preceded by the Enabled by Design-athon. Here’s a passionate example of what a design-athon supported in Washington, D.C. is like. The U.K.-based organization produces practical designs for people with a range of disabilities in various parts of the world, helping people without a limb make a tea pot and people with multiple sclerosis use a knife. This exoskeleton helps a little girl with muscle issues get around.
3D printing and people with a disability aren’t new. The ability to customize and quickly meet particular needs is, as is the ability to address and quickly remedy the need as a community. Not only that but they can spread the solution efficiently. Now people with the same problem, in the developed world at least, can go to their nearest library or wherever they can find a 3D printer and not just discover the solution to their practical problem, but make it.
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