Dec 22, 2017 | By David

As medical technology has progressed over the last half century or more, one of the inevitable consequences is that people are now living longer. With that in mind, new technological research would do well to keep the elderly in mind, as a growing demographic and market with its own specific needs. A group of students from Los Angeles’ ArtCenter College of Design recently heeded the call of the old, using 3D printing and other techniques to make a prototype for a more comfortable and stylish version of the walker, the aid that many senior citizens rely on to move around.

This innovative walking aid is known as Lio, and was developed by students Margaux Reynolds, Jikke van Giffen, Skyler Coppenrath, and Alberto Esses. Design strategist Reynolds refers to walkers and other products for the elderly market using the phrase ‘'low-hanging fruit’', as there are so many opportunities to improve things for this relatively neglected demographic. The team carried out extensive ethnographic research as part of their project, visiting physical rehabilitation centers, trying out different walkers, and consulting with therapist and caregivers as well as users of walkers.

The team identified a number of problems with current walkers, in terms of functionality, performance, portability, and aesthetics, and they set out to solve them as well as they could. Walkers can often be cumbersome and impractical to carry around and use, with limited possibility for braking or other forms of control not sufficiently increasing potential mobility, and also adding an element of possible danger to their use. They are also uncomfortable to operate, and mostly lacking in visual appeal.

The Lio prototype tackles these issues firstly with a  new design that allows for double folding, so the walker is much more portable, at a quarter of its fully-extended size. They replaced the standard bicycle-style handgrip brake with an electrical button-push one, so the wheels are much easier to stop and the walker is a lot safer and easier to control.

In a bid to increase independence in users even further, the designers also made the wheels larger than what you find on most walkers, and they made the front wheels bigger than the back ones. They found that using bigger wheels overall meant that it was easier to traverse rough surfaces and go up and down curbs, improving their potential for being used outdoors.

With a lot of walkers, there can also be serious discomfort caused by the way the wheel system is constructed. This can lead to rattling when using the walker, particularly on rougher surfaces. This motion translates into excessive vibrations in the hands, which are particularly hard for people to cope with if they suffer from arthritis. 3D printing technology came in useful to solve this issue. The team put together a suspension system for the wheels, 3D printed from a lightweight flexible silicone material, marked by cutouts to absorb shock as much as possible.

Finally, the team tried to make the walker a little more stylish. Aesthetic considerations are almost non-existent with most walking aids, which is a real problem for many users who want to incorporate the device into a normal life and don’t want to feel like they are defined by their disability. In their research, the team found that many users decorated their walkers with stickers and other items, as changing their physical appearance was a way to deal with what Reynolds refers to as a “surface stigma.'' Users often ''see themselves differently, they feel crippled, they’re not cool, they’re not desirable. The way they see themselves gets changed through the use of the walker.”

[All Images: courtesy Team Lio]

The design of the walker was made as modular as possible, so users had more choice in terms of the different parts that made up their walking aid. The designers wanted to improve customization and personalization options as much as they could, and they foresee a final version of the walker that will have a range of colors and styles for each part, available online or in stores. With the success of this prototype, the team is now planning ways that it could be made into a commercially viable product.



Posted in 3D Printing Application

Source: Co.Design


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Peter Syster wrote at 12/23/2017 3:46:12 PM:

This thing called "AID" does not meet the needs of elder, even disabled individuals. There is almost nothing more than the handles. It lacks: hooks the shopping bags can be put on a tray shopping goods can be put in a stock holder (walking aid and or umbrella) a seat breaks!!!. WTH is this thing good for. The young poepls should ask the poeple they are making things for what they need. Stupid.

Olaf Diegel wrote at 12/23/2017 7:55:13 AM:

Would be great to see pictures of the prototype, rather than just renderings. That would allow users to see the "reality" of using additive manufacturing in design.

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