The impact 3D printers seem to have made in so many industries around the world is mind-boggling. And while these high-tech machines are able to build up a variety of materials for different parts and prototypes, true impacts are made by innovators who realize the benefits of creating 3D designs that can be refined in the beginning stages with ease—and then manufactured quickly.
Countless new parts are being designed and engineered that would have not been possible without the advent of 3D printing, but many traditional components and devices are now produced much more affordably too, and in materials that may be more suitable depending on requirements for durability or lighter weight. Prosthetics are the ultimate example, with a wide range of devices now being made for patients of all ages who need replacement limbs. They can usually be made at a fraction of the cost in comparison to conventional prosthetics, and can be replaced or revised easily due to the 3D design. This is a big plus for children who are growing and need continual replacements.
Along with improving the realm of traditional prosthetics, designers are also able to create completely new devices that allow for a much broader scope of activity and function, whether for eating, playing video games, or even playing musical instruments. In the case of five-year-old Neriah Rhodes, a desire to play the violin led to help from a LeTourneau University student.
Drew Miles is a Biomedical Engineering student at LeTourneau, at the main campus in Longview, Texas. An email from a Florida violin instructor asked if students could submit designs for a device that would allow Rhodes to play the violin. Initially, Miles thought he was one of a group of students submitting designs, but quickly found out that he had the project all to himself. Although a bit intimidated by the task at first, he was dedicated to the mission of helping the young violinist-to-be, and he began preparing himself for what he thought would take about three months of work in creating and 3D printing an assistive device that would work better than what Rhodes had been using. In the end, it took seven months, but Miles and supervising professor Dr. Ko Sasaki wanted to get the design just right for the budding musician. In the end, they refined the device 15 times, sending them to the little girl to try on in Florida.
“We designed it to where it could be donned with one hand,” Miles revealed.
The final design was painted pink, honoring Rhodes’ favorite color. Her mother Elizabeth said that the assistive device has been a real life changer for her daughter, giving her a real sense of independence.
“… she wasn’t needing anybody to help her and it was pretty incredible,” said Elizabeth Rhodes.
The team made the 3D printed device at no cost to the Rhodes family, and although the design she has currently is more flexible, they created a stiffer version for her as a backup too.
“We could not thank you enough in words for what you’ve done for Neriah, who you’ve never met, and you probably will never meet her. And we get to benefit from your hard work and we are incredibly grateful for you,” Elizabeth Rhodes relayed.
See a video of Neriah Rhodes playing the violin here.
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