arthritisaniCurrently there are over 50 million adults living in the United States alone who have been told by their physicians that they are suffering from some form of arthritis. These are huge numbers, and for many of these people, getting around and performing everyday normal tasks can be a major challenge. While there are plenty of medications which ultimately do help ease the symptoms, there are still millions of people who cannot perform tasks such as carrying grocery bags, zippering a zipper, or buttoning a shirt.

Thanks to one mechanical and manufacturing engineer, named Ian Hanna, there is now a super affordable solution. Hanna, who currently works for a major automotive company which has been using 3D printing for design verification in the manufacturing of a new electric car design, believes 3D printing is a technology of the future.

“In the near future I want to ensure all our design engineers direct access to 3D printers for real-time testing and verification,” Hanna tells 3DPrint.com.

A while back, Hanna came across a contest, which he happened to read about here on 3DPrint.com, asking designers to create 3D printed devices that could come to the aid of other people. He began researching various disabilities and realized just how common arthritis really is. It isn’t just a disability that affects people in certain regions or locales, but is a world-wide problem. He decided to create several devices which would aid in the everyday lives of people suffering from this terrible ailment.

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He ended up designing several different tools using open source software such as FreeCAD and Blender. These tools included the Button/Zipper Assist, Handle Assist, and Key Assist.

“Arthritis assist devices similar to my designs all existed already and were proven to be effective,” Hanna tells us. “Each of these devices is about helping with dexterity or reducing the amount of force taken to do a task.. When designing these parts I wanted to ensure they were easily printed and didn’t require any other parts. I designed them to all be printed without supports. The key and bag handle were fairly straightforward to design and were done with only 2 iterations. The button and zipper aid took 11 iterations of modification and testing before I had a design that was durable and easily printable.”

As for the individual designs, the Button Assist and Zipper Assist tools are part of one device. One end has a loop which can be fed through a shirt’s button hole and then grab the button. It can then easily be pulled through the hole using the large handle, rather than requiring an arthritis sufferer to maneuver the tiny buttons. The zipper portion of the device features a small hook which can be hooked directly onto the zipper of pants, a jacket or whatever else, and then the large handle can be used to pull it up or down. As for the bag handle, it helps distribute the force and weight of a bag across the user’s hand in order to reduce pain in a localized area. The Key Assist is quite clever as well.

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“[It] works by giving a user leverage to open a door lock with less force than just the top of a key,” Hanna explains.

Hanna has made all of his designs available to download for free from Thingiverse. What do you think about these designs? Have you tried printing and using them yet yourself? Discuss in the 3D Printed Arthritis Assist Tools forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video of these tools in action below.

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