Aug 18, 2016 | By Tess

Colorado Springs-based 3D printing company Titan Robotics, known for its large-scale 3D printers, has recently made a foray into another field, largely due to one of its dedicated employees, Allison Jones. Jones, who works as a mechanical engineer for the company, is also a two-time gold medalist for the U.S. Paralympic team and has combined both her skills to create some truly innovative 3D printed athletic assistive devices, one of which actually helped her friend and teammate, Billy Lister, qualify for the Rio 2016 games.

Lister, who suffered from a stroke at the age of 17, has become neurologically paralyzed on the left side of his body. As one can imagine, this severely impacted his mobility and physical capabilities, but amazingly did not stop him from pursuing his love for sports, especially cycling. Because of his condition, however, cycling causes stress on his left hand and arm, which then involuntarily contract into a position that is not aerodynamically optimal for his riding. As many people will know, in the sport of cycling, it is often just a few seconds, or even fractions of a second that determine the winners, so having even a slight aerodynamic disadvantage could ruin the race.

To help her friend Lister overcome this riding hurdle, Jones has worked with him to design a custom fitted 3D printed device that effectively holds his arm in place on the handlebar—both balancing him, and maintaining an aerodynamic position. To help keep his hand and arm relaxed while riding, the device has also been designed to have a pressure point near the wrist which works to release tension as he rides.

Not only has the 3D printed assistive device helped make riding more comfortable for Lister, but he even credits it with helping him qualify for the Rio Summer 2016 Paralympic Games. He said in an interview: “With this arm perch, it puts my arm in a secure position and doesn’t allow it to move around. It takes the uncontrollable nature of my arm out of the equation and allows me to ride more comfortably and a lot faster.”

Jones reportedly designed and 3D printed a number of prototypes for the device using Titan’s state-of-the-art equipment before settling on the final design. And, with the success of Lister’s cycling device, she hopes that she can continue to help make athletics easier for people with disabilities by additively manufacturing more customized and affordable assistive devices.

As for Billy Lister, we’ll be able to see him take his new 3D printed arm holding device for a ride at the upcoming track and road races at the Rio Paralympic Games. The athlete concluded about the whole experience: “Anything is possible. Just because you can't do something in the traditional manner doesn't mean you can't do it at all. Just taking yourself and thinking outside the box and creating a team around you—that’s what Allison and Titan Robotics were able to produce. You can't do it alone.”

Be sure to check out other ways 3D printing has come into play in the 2016 Olympic Summer Games:



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