The VA Innovation Creation Series: Prosthetic and Assistive Technologies Challenge welcomed 125 designers, engineers, students, teachers and veterans to the make-a-thon event held in Richmond, Virginia, last week. Fourteen Stratasys FDM-based 3D printers, ranging from MakerBots to the Fortus 450mc, were put to the test, producing contestants’ design iterations over the course of the two-day challenge.
The purpose of the challenge was to not only develop a device or solution to improve the care and quality of veterans, but to also encourage contestants to think about how their devices could apply to a broader audience.
LisaMarie Wiley, a veteran with a lower limb amputation, proposed a challenge for the VA make-a-thon contestants: to design a coupler that could easily adapt to any number of her prosthetics, and therefore lighten her travel load.
Wiley, an advocate for veterans, particularly in the area of women-related issues, stressed the importance of accessibility and knowledge-sharing when it comes to innovation and 3D printed designs.
“Innovative designs need to be accessible, because there will come a day when 3D printers are as common as a household DVD player—and if a part breaks, I want to be able to hit print and have a part in-hand without having to go through a complicated process,” said Wiley. “I’m telling these designers not to hoard their intelligence, because it’s so important that we encourage knowledge sharing. It’s not just the military or one country in particular that needs these devices, it’s the entire world.”
In addition to coupler designs, participants like Dara Dotz, a designer for the “Girls Lounge,” worked with Wiley to develop a customized 3D printed fairing that would allow the veteran to feel more confident with her prosthetic device.
“A lot of prosthetics are designed with utilitarian needs, so they work for men and women but they don’t quite fit right or they don’t have the same aesthetics that a woman might want,” said Dotz.
Dotz decided to use the power of additive manufacturing and Stratasys FDM 3D printing technology to develop a low cost fairing that would include biomimicry designs and butterfly patterns to create an extension of Wiley’s personality.
“The beauty of 3D printing is the ability to constantly iterate, prototype and test designs immediately,” added Dotz. “With our design, we were able to send it to the 3D printer the night before, test the design in the morning and make any design changes before 3D printing our final prototype. We were able to 3D print and test our design within 24 hours versus if you were actually making the product with traditional forms of manufacturing—using molds that would cost thousands of dollars and from weeks to months to produce.”
Prosthetic devices were among some of the many creative designs 3D printed at the VA Challenge. Teams utilized the Stratasys FDM-based 3D printers to create prototypes of hand gloves used to suppress tremors, unique pill box cases to organize medications, a dynamic arm rest system to improve a wheelchair’s range of positioning and many more. Google.org awarded $25,000 cash prizes to the design challenge winners:
* Grand Prize Winner: Team Spline (Team members: Matthew Kelly, Mihir Shelke, Jason Suh, Ausvin Khanna and Matt Baker)
* First Place Make-a-thon Winner: Glucose tester (Team members: Iris Lin and Kaila Grenier)
* Second place Make-a-thon Winner: Camo Cup (Team members: Joe Sigrin, Matt Brown and Joel Hemphill)
* Girls Female-focused Challenge Winner: Team MAAG, a “Make-up Glove” (Team members: Eric Lara, Sara Um and Carl Lewenhaupt)
* Pillbox Challenge Winner: Team Drug Pushers (Team members: Collin Mister, Iris Lin and Carey Pohanka)
* Speed of Upper Extremity Challenge Winner: Edward McCarron
* 18 And Under Winner: Duck + Cover
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