Dec 17, 2015 | By Benedict

Tobias Wirtl has won the Thingiverse Assistive Technology Challenge for his 3D printed, mouth operated computer mouse. Runner up prizes went to a 3D printable wheelchair and a kit for assisting disabled dogs.

The Bay Area Makeathon took place September 11-13, bringing together a diverse range of people looking to make a positive contribution to the disabled community. Engineers, developers and designers pooled their ideas to create hardware and software prototypes aimed at improving the lives of disabled people.

The prototypes created at the Makeathon were not designed to be patented and used as profit-making devices, so Thingiverse challenged makers to create their own 3D printed devices, by either build upon the successful Makeathon designs or starting from scratch. The Assistive Technology Challenge, which received 170 submissions, closed on November 1st, and Thingiverse has now announced the winners of the competition.

The overall winner of the competition was the 3D printed Mouth Operated Mouse, designed by Tobias Wirtl. After reading about the obstacles faced by disabled people wishing to engage with technology, the designer set about creating a device which could help disabled people access the internet. Whilst several such products already exist, few are easily affordable. Wirtl thus endeavored to create a product which could maximize accessibility while keeping expenditure at a bare minimum. The 3D printed Mouth Operated Mouse met these targets superbly, and can be easily reproduced for very little money.

“There are many new technologies that people with disabilities can’t access and in my opinion everyone should be able to benefit from today’s media, especially the Internet,” said Wirtl. “That’s why I decided to create a device that would allow people to navigate the Web. Products like these sell for hundreds of dollars. I created this one with one 3D printer and about $20 worth of commonly available components.”

The 3D printed Mouth Operated Mouse features a small mouthpiece which functions like a joystick. Users can move the joystick with a small mouth movement, in order to move the cursor about the computer screen. Users can “left click” on the 3D printed device by sucking inwards, and “right click” by pushing the joystick towards the case. The miniature device is powered by an Arduino Pro Micro and is compatible with most PCs via a USB connection. The maker recommends printing the device, which consists of five 3D printed parts, at a resolution of 0.2mm with a 20% infill.

Second place was awarded to a 3D printed product which will be familiar to some readers. The HU-GO 3D printable wheelchair, developed by wheelchair user Hugo Riveros, can be built with a 3D printer and easy-to-source household items.

HU-GO is a 3D printable wheelchair for people who live in third world countries. Upon the creator’s visit to his home country of Chile, he realized that many children and adults needed wheelchairs and had no way of affording them. When he returned home, he started to evaluate his own wheelchair and make small adjustments and additions to make it better. Eventually he designed an affordable wheelchair that could be built using a 3D printer and a number of household items. He hopes that his design will make its way to countries with people in need, so they are able navigate their neighborhoods and their lives with ease. The wheelchair is comprised of 3D printed parts, plywood, zip ties and household items like socks and flour bags for cushioning.

Third place was awarded to a 3D printed product for disabled dogs. The Assistive Devices for Assistance Dogs Starter Kit includes a 3D printable switch paddle, door knob puller and set of scent coded training fobs to help dogs navigate cluttered rooms. According to the inventor, "it’s not just people that need a helping hand - assistance dogs also need help manipulating environments that aren’t designed for them."

“Each time we hold a MakerBot Thingiverse Challenge, we are amazed by the things people create,” said Nadav Goshen, MakerBot President. “We’d like to thank everyone who participated in this challenge and we encourage people to continue to create and expand upon these designs to empower even more people around the world who have disabilities.”

Wirtl’s impressive 3D printed device earned him a MakerBot Replicator 5th generation with Makercare, with the runners up each receiving a roll of MakerBot filament.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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