After focusing solely on hands and arms for the past 3 years, it was only a matter of time before our e-NABLE Volunteers and student groups started pushing past designs for hands, to create other 3D printable objects to help the limb different communities find ways to improve their current devices.
Frankie Flood, one of our earliest and most active e-NABLE Community members and designers, is a professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) and runs a Digital Fabrication and Designs class. He has been helping to create hands, alternative tool devices for musical instruments and more, for over 2 years.
He has now helped to branch his students out into a new project called “Next Step” – creating custom 3D printed covers for prosthetic legs, with Veterans as their intended recipients.
Frankie shares from his blog: “Last semester, my students Fred Kaems, Becky Yoshikane, Sara Shuler and Calvin T. Rupnow, engaged in a project that involved the creation of a 3D printable prosthetic leg covering or fairing. This is intended to restore anatomical shape of the affected limb, to be customizable and to be 3D printable on tabletop 3D printers. This project, entitled, “Next Step“, is provided as a way to give veterans the opportunity to customize and create a bespoke covering that mirrors their personality and interests.”
He goes on to write, “The project began with an introduction to Gerald Ortiz of Melody America who put our students in contact with Sgt. Eric Rodriguez USMC. I was introduced to Gerry through my work with e-NABLE. Gerry runs Melody America, an organization that promotes adaptive music therapy for veterans. We discussed the fact that many amputees would like the opportunity to restore the anatomical shape of their affected limb.”
Frankie realized that his Digital Craft Research Lab students at UWM might be able to use their unique design and fabrication skills to design a 3D printed fairing that could be offered as an open source device for veterans and others who would like customized prosthetic leg coverings.
“One of my summer DCRL interns, Hugo Martins, and I began working on the project this past summer by creating 3D scans of Sgt. Rodriguez’s prosthetic leg socket and brainstorming ideas about what the coverings might be and how it might function,” said Frankie. “Later, the Sgt. was kind enough to loan us his back-up leg so that we could design around the full leg and all associated components.”
In Fall of 2015, Frankie decided to bring in his Digital Fabrication and Design students. “I wanted to see what they might create for Sgt. Rodriguez but also wanted to use this project as a way to demonstrate the unique ways that craftspeople, artists and designers can utilize their skills and knowledge to solve problems for individuals. I frequently speak to my students about the role that we all play in society as craftspeople.”
He goes on to share, “There was a time when people who made things were valued by society and they enabled communities to thrive and grow. The “makers and fixers” were the facilitators of a self sufficient life and they also had the opportunity to infuse individuality into our world through ornamentation and design and to create experiences that are unique to the user. That said progress was comparatively slow because of the transfer of knowledge and the speed and efficiency with which things could be created. The industrial revolution changed that progress, but sacrifices were made to the individual’s needs as well as the value of the maker who created one of a kind objects.
We live in a unique time, where technology, the knowledge of process and material and problem solving are valuable commodities. Makers are now using hybrid practices to solve specific problems to create objects that address the needs of an individual.
In addition, craftspeople are now able to solve problems remotely and the local community has now become a global community. The ability to connect is allowing those in need to have a voice that is heard, and the hybrid practice established by craftspeople, artists, designers and programmers is allowing Craft to regain a foothold that mirror’s and adapts to it’s own origins of connecting with community and creating objects with purpose.
My students understand that they have a role to play in their society and that they have a responsibility to create a better world through the objects they create. They understand that their skill set and knowledge is important in a world with more problems than solutions. Assisting Gerry Ortiz and Sgt. Rodriguez seemed like a unique teaching opportunity that could benefit everyone involved.”
Over the course of 15 weeks, Frankie and his students created 3 prototype leg coverings which included designing a covering for their own bodies, a design created from an interview with Sgt. Rodriguez about his interests and passions and a group project to come up with a design that could be designed with ease of customization and production. The third prototype had to be built for Sgt. Rodriguez’s prosthetic leg, but also had to be adaptable and customizable to anyone else with the same model of lower leg prosthetic. Each student then created custom from fairing pieces that could allow users to interchange or modify their front panel.
The students entered their design and prototype into the Infymakers challenge in hopes of winning $10,000 to further develop documentation, assembly instructions and finalization of the designs as well as develop relationships with other veterans.
Today we we want to congratulate them as they have won this prize and they are eager to get started in working to make this design even better and plan to share the files open source and available to all – as soon as they can!
This is a huge step forward for so many lower limb amputees and we hope this starts encouraging the creative process within our global e-NABLE Volunteer Community to start thinking of other ways they can use their design skills, technical abilities, artistic talents, creative ideas, imaginations and 3D printers to continue making a difference in the lives of others.
Please visit Frankie’s blog here to see his incredible artwork and to stay up to date on the progress for his students in their quest to create easily accessible customizable 3D printed leg coverings for lower limb amputees!
Our volunteers continue to work toward “Enabling The Future” – will you join us?