• MakerBot support TOM Melbourne

MakerBot support TOM Melbourne

Adding Strength with A Better Wheelchair Design 
Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) from Melbourne had the challenge of designing a robotic wheelchair headrest for users with limited muscular strength to control the head position when bending forwards or backwards, resulting in some pain and discomfort changing posture.

Lateral support to the user’s head was restricted so the robotic headrest was seen as a solution to deal with this issue, but given the difference in each user’s body build and condition, design for each headrest might be slightly different. Also, the project design had to be easy to manufacture without incurring high cost.

This is where TOM’s design and production team Techneck were brought in.

Inhouse Production Enhances Speed and Quality
The project was initially developed with the goal of its free provision to anyone uploading it onto TOM’s open source platform and, therefore, the design had to be easily manufactured using the latest technology such as 3D printing.

“Before using any 3D printers, we had less capability to produce the parts we needed due to concerns over cost, and also the fact that some of the parts are so irregular in shape that it is just impossible to produce even if we hand craft it or use CNC to mill, Techneck leader, Anthony Canepa comments.

Bringing in MakerBot Replicator+ enabled TOM’s design team to greatly increase the efficiency while reducing cost associated with outsourcing (e.g. logistics, back-and-forth communication etc.) The reliability factor and set-up procedure with MakerBot Replicator+ are Techneck’s favourite features compared with earlier printers.

“Setting up the printer takes us only a couple of minutes, it is also quick to convert our designs in CAD to printable format on the MakerBot Print software. Then it’s just sending the file to print and monitoring the print job via the software or our smartphones. The whole process very easy to manage,” said Canepa.

Parts Tailor-made for All Models 
The Team used the MakerBot printers to fabricate and evaluate their first design, then quickly iterate to improve the system with over half the end product components.  One particular part, used to attach the motor mount of the headrest to the back plate of the system and allow it to pivot on two planes from a distance, was printed with the MakerBot Replicator+ capacity for enhanced design and speed. Printing of this part took Techneck for just 1.5 hours.

For another important component used to connect the headrest and ensure critical lateral support, Techneck again decided on MakerBot Replicator+. This part enables the wheelchair user to be easily hoisted from the chair by allowing the headrest to be pivoted away from the user. 

The tailor-made production fits all types of wheelchair and the whole design is quicker and, importantly for cost, can be achieved in-house avoiding the disadvantages of out-sourcing. Both Techneck professionals and people reliant on the chair are empowered.

Redefining the Industry
MakerBot Replicator+ has a practical ease and reliability permitting the Team, through improved workflow, to work on the design whilst having other parts fabricated. Testing and iterating the design and fabricating again with MakerBot was done in a matter of hours, not days, as before.

Anthony Canepa said, “Compared to other printers we have used, the MakerBot Replicator+  is the easiest and most reliable printer I have ever employed. It produces great quality parts consistently.” MakerBot Replicator+, as Techneck’s experience testifies, is redefining the future development of the niche design industry.

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