Kickstarter Campaign Brings 3D Printed Writing Aid to Children with Disabilities


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Italian FabLab and bottom-up research hub OpenDot created a customizable writing tool using 3D printing technology that can help children with complex neurological disorders express their creativity while also enabling a rehabilitation process. The idea for the custom-made writing aid called Glifo was born out of a collaboration between designers, therapists, manufacturers, and families of children affected by this impairment.

Now OpenDot has launched a crowdfunding campaign on the creativity-focused global crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise funding to develop an online configurator (based on a mockup configurator the FabLab already developed) that will enable anyone to personalize their own Glifo to their specific needs and taste without leaving home. With 62% of the pledged $5,876 goal and 88 backers, OpenDot still needs to raise $2,214 by November 18, 2020, for the project to be funded.

OpenDot’s Kickstarter campaign for the Glifo. Image courtesy of OpenDot

Back in 2014, OpenDot teamed up with the Together To Go (TOG) Foundation, a center for the rehabilitation of children with a disability based in Milan, Italy, searching for an innovative solution to a common need brought up by therapists. They had witnessed how important it was for the children they were helping to engage in artistic activities, in the same way, their schoolmates did, and even more so if they could do the task autonomously.

Since then, product designers Sara Monacchi, Andrea Pelino, Luca Toscano, along with OpenDot and TOG, have created a functional, low-cost, accessible, and inclusive solution that, thanks to 3D printing, could be tailor-made for each child. For the task, OpenDot designers have been using Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printers at the FabLab for all the Glifo prototypes and will deliver smoother, more resistant products produced using industrial Selective laser sintering (SLS) technology and SLS nylon material, that will guarantee a smoother, nicer and more resistant part in a variety of different colors, with a personalized dimension and handle rotation, capable of holding pencils, markers, and even jumbo markers.

Children affected with brain and neurological conditions frequently have trouble with fine motor skills, which is smaller movements and grips necessary to hold and utilize implements, making it difficult to connect what their brain visualizes to the fine-tuned actions needed to realize that vision on the page. This is mainly due to muscle weakness or difficulty with coordination, as common symptoms of pediatric neurological disorders often collaborate towards these impediments. Children with neurological disabilities often suffer from partial or complete paralysis, loss of sensation, difficulty reading and writing, poor cognitive abilities, and even seizures.

Glifo was born to help children with a complex neurological disorder write and draw. Image courtesy of OpenDot

To bridge the therapeutical needs of children affected by the condition with a desire to express their artistic vision, OpenDot created a tool that would enhance their capabilities despite the complexity of their pathologies. So far, every family had to go to the Milan FabLab to check the dimensions to get the perfect customized Glifo suitable for a child’s hand. Now, they want to change that. The goal of their campaign is to develop an online configurator that would enable anyone to intuitively, simply, quickly, and directly order the right product from a large number of possible product variants according to their individual requirements. People will be able to choose the correct dimensions, tilt, and color, using a simple and accessible interface. They can even give Glifo a name, to personalize it further.

The Glifo writing aid for children with neurological disabilities. Image courtesy of OpenDot

By supporting the campaign, backers will not only help OpenDot create an online configurator, but they will also directly support kids that need a Glifo the most. The rewards are built to become donations to individuals who need Glifo or sets of Glifos for organizations, schools, associations, and even hospitals. Pledges start at $6 and backers can choose from a range of packs, such as a “School and Organization Pack” that includes a set of five Glifos that can be donated once the campaign is over, or a “Drawing and Writing Lover” set that comes with one customized 3D printed Glifo and postcards for painting.

The campaign is also being promoted by careables, a European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 funded project about digital fabrication technologies and open and inclusive healthcare, with a platform where care receivers, healthcare professionals, and makers join forces to co-create and share solutions for people with disabilities.

The mockup of the online configurator that OpenDot wants to create using funding from it’s Kickstarter campaign. Image courtesy of OpenDot

As part of Unico – The Other Design, a brand of objects and design aids created by OpenDot and the TOG Foundation, Glifo’s custom-made design is meant to improve the quality of life of children with disabilities, as well as being a support aid to therapists and doctors. Once the campaign ends in November, OpenDot expects to develop the customizing web platform by January 2021, just in time to begin production and shipping of their product. Driven by the belief that 3D printing technology combined with an online configurator can further reduce the design and production costs, OpenDot believes there will be virtually no limits to scale up the project, and offer a worldwide reach to families that need them.

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