We know that academic makerspaces create meaningful experiences for students, yet how do we measure this meaningful impact? Where do we start?
Last fall on behalf of the UVM FabLab I attended the first International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces (ISAM) at MIT. Organizers for the symposium came from MIT, Yale, Stanford, Olin, Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve, Georgia Tech and UC Berkeley.
I specifically attended the conference to learn how to better use metrics to measure the impact of academic makerspaces. The big idea emphasized by Malcom Cooke of ThinkBox at Case Western was Keep Calm and Collect Data – collect as much data as possible and start today! Collect data that you can assess and measure over time, look to metrics and outcomes, quantitative and qualitative outcomes.
Prosthetic hands have been 3D printed, regardless of age, to aid in everyday lifestyles of those who need it. While they won’t have quite as much function as a living arm, The Unlimbited Arm is both lightweight and functional to help with day to day activities for people missing a portion of their arm such as holding a glass of water to riding a bike. To print the hand we print each piece separately using the Fab Lab’s very own Makerbots and assemble the arm using fishing line as the tendons and padding for comfort with Velcro to complete the attachment. When printing hands, one would begin by taking the measurements of their arm that will be fitted with the 3D printed replacement in order to accurately fit the arm onto themselves and adjust comfortably.
For this particular arm, I printed the suggested sizing values on one of our Makerbot printer using PLA with the color of my choice. In order to attach the tricep jig onto the tricep cuff, we boil the cuff and lay it on top of the tricep jig in order to fit it on as accurately as possible.
Team Unlimbited has been developing and improving these arms for countless people in order to help give them function back for a low-cost but “handy” device. Seeing children receive these arms is incredible because they are given back something that most people take for granted, the simple function of a second arm.
Everyday thousands of people around the world sustain injuries that require a cast or brace to stabilize their fracture/ sprain and promote healing. Traditionally these casts were made of fiberglass, which is fairly light weight, but can be very abrasive and called for a set of thick padding to protect the skin. Additionally Fiberglass casts are particularly troublesome when it comes to getting wet because any moisture trapped inside the padding can create chaffing for patients which can develop into bacterial infections. Recently through breakthroughs in 3-D printing applications groups of people have been coming together and creating designs for lightweight and cheap casts made from printed PLA material.
Additive manufacturing by 3D printing and the medical field seem to be two highly compatible areas that could benefit each other. Sprains and fractures are injuries that are treated differently from person to person and incident to incident and CAD programs that allow for the scaling of printed parts can be implemented to tailor a brace to any individual.
Here at UVM we printed a simple cast from one of our MakerBot printers that was worn by an employee with a sprained wrist. This cast was designed to be printed as a two dimensional net, that would then be heated using hot water to be contoured to the “patients” arm. This process may sound overly involved but was in fact simple to do and required water that was almost boiling and a container big enough to submerge the 7×7 print. First the part was submerged for a few seconds until it became highly malleable. Then it was quickly taken out and pressed on the wrist with pressure on all sides to lock in the desired shape. In the picture below this particular brace used Velcro straps to be secured onto the wrist. There are other processes being explored that involve using a 3-D scanner to record exact dimensions of a patient’s body so that cast can simply be snapped into place over their limb. The later process is desired if the area of injury is highly sensitive and cannot take any loads applied to it.
This is a small example of how new advances in additive manufacturing can help solve everyday problems experienced by people of all different walks of life. 3D printing has been a technology in progress for the past thirty years and plaster casts have been used for far longer than that