Rapid Prototyping: Personalizing Assistive Technology

Designing assistive technology has a lot of challenges. The market for assistive technology is relatively small and very diverse. For a given task, there is going to be a wide range of customer needs for a technology that works well for them. Designing a piece of assistive technology that can work for a wide range of individuals is one of the biggest challenges a designer faces. Finding the balance between universality and individual customization is difficult. This class gives us the opportunity to work in an ideal environment: developing one product for a single client and their needs. With our rapid, iterative prototyping, there’s a lot of options for our use.

Loc-line can be used to create a wide variety of interesting objects.

We had a guest lecturer come in and talk to us about her work in rapidly prototyping assistive technology devices for her clients. She talked to us about the many tools she used, from Instamorph, to loc-line and a dozen varieties of tape. She showed us the power of corrugated plastic with tape, by making a customized iPad stand in seconds. (For more examples of rapid prototyping in assistive technology, check out this book linked here.) From her stories, it’s clear that the tools of rapid prototyping can make a big impact on the happiness of assistive technology users.

It’s hard to talk about rapid prototyping without mentioning 3D printing, and for our project, 3D printing is in fact a key component. Our second prototype involves a component printed in ABS. It works well, and we are printing our final version in Kevlar-infused nylon, which will be extremely durable.

The MarkOne printer from MarkForged can create nylon products infused with kevlar, for a lightweight, structural component.

With how easily available tools of rapid prototyping are becoming, finding the balance between universality and individual customization will become much easier to do, with much greater possibilities for customization at the client end.

One Response to “Rapid Prototyping: Personalizing Assistive Technology”

  1. Jeff Dusek says:

    Lots of cool opportunities in rapid prototyping, and you cover the spectrum well. The question I always have with 3D printing is whether the quality of parts you can achieve on an affordable printer are actually up to the task of everyday use. The Makerforged printer is awesome, but on a whole different level price wise. Hopefully the huge amount of work being done on printer technology will bring the more durable materials to a lower price point.

Leave a Reply