Makers for Heroes Make-a-Thon Uses 3D Printing to Help Veterans Get Their Lives Back

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A 33-year-old veteran named Zarita used to love to dance, but since her injury in a car accident on the way to her duty station, she has suffered from dizziness and loss of balance, leaving her unable to dance for fear of falling. She needed some kind of stabilizing device that would allow her to be able to move freely yet remain supported. After a 72-hour “Makers for Heroes Make-a-Thon” event in Tel Aviv recently, Zarita now has such a device, and can dance as beautifully as she did before her accident.

Zarita was only one of the veterans helped by the event, which was sponsored by Stratasys. The company also participated in the event as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, which has already done worlds of good for veterans by 3D printing prosthetics, providing 3D printers and more. The Make-a-Thon was organized by RESTART, a non-profit organization that helps veterans move on with their lives after injuries. Challenge America, another partner, assisted veterans from the United States.

“We’ve seen that advanced technology like 3D printing truly has the power to transform lives,” Arita Mattsoff, Vice President of CSR at Stratasys, told 3DPrint.com. “That’s why innovative Make-a-Thons like this are so important. These events are an excellent platform for 3D printing innovation – helping not only the veterans who choose to participate, but also for driving awareness for those with similar challenges. Together, we can make significant strides in the use of 3D printing for the greater good, around the world.”

The first-of-its-kind international Make-a-Thon gathered veterans from the United States, France and Israel, and put to work multiple teams that used 3D printing and other design and fabrication processes to create assistive devices. Teams included designers, programmers, engineers, physiotherapists, medical doctors, and psychologists. The goal of the event was to create 3D printed solutions for specific veterans that could later be developed into products for wider use. Those solutions that can be adapted for wider use may be further developed by the TOM Platform (Tikkum Olam Makers).

“3D printing is a perfect fit for this type of endeavor because it excels at producing customized and personalized designs,” says Mattsoff. “You can quickly and economically 3D print your idea and make design iterations that result in a custom fit for each person. Our team included eight volunteer employees to staff one of twelve innovation teams. Stratasys encourages employee engagement for community, which is a key part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program and culture. The CSR program engages employees to take part in societal change and help make an impact.”

The Stratasys volunteers, which consisted of employees from various disciplines including innovation, technology, healthcare, human resources and IT, backed Team Noam, named for a 33-year-old Israeli veteran who lost his leg in mortar fire. He was hoping to redesign his wheelchair in a way that would improve the balance so that he could better play tennis with the Paralympics team.

The Stratasys team worked hard to find a solution, and came up with a removable counterweight that attaches to the wheelchair when needed. The design mimics the weight distribution of a leg and attaches to the chair adjacent to Noam’s left leg. Stratasys created the solution using a 3D scan of Noam’s sitting position. The team 3D printed several iterations of the design using Stratasys FDM thermoplastic and covering it with breathing fabric and memory foam.

Noam was only one of the veterans helped during the event; another wanted to be able to surf again after a back injury and received an adapted surfboard that will allow her to do so. Another suffered a spinal cord injury and has only been able to move in a wheelchair but can now stand using a mobile device. Another veteran suffers from PTSD and anxiety, and needed help identifying when an anxiety attack was about to occur. He received an application for his smart watch that identifies when an attack is approaching and can help to prevent it from occurring.

And Zarita? See for yourself:

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images provided by Stratasys]

 

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