The Cerebra Innovation Centre (CIC) were recently asked for help with a small project, which really emphasises the usefulness of 3D printing and the computer age when trying to solve tricky little problems.
Going back only 6 or 7 years, this problem would have required meeting face to face, taking measurements, a day or two in the workshop and returning to fit the product; now with a photo and a few clicks of a mouse, CIC were able to produce a product in record time!
Bryher Hill, an occupational therapist in South Wales emailed CIC to ask for help. A cheeky young lad on her case load kept switching his wheelchair’s dual controls off so that he could override his helper.
Bryher explains: “I have always been aware of the CIC but haven’t needed to ask for their help until now! I attended a wheelchair assessment for a young child that we work with and we found that he would try to turn the wheelchair power off whilst his carer was driving the wheelchair as it had dual controls. I was concerned that if he were to do this in the middle of a road crossing or similar, it would be dangerous, so decided to ask CIC if they could design a cover for the control unit. I took a couple of photos and some quick measurements at the wheelchair handover and sent them over to CIC. They did the rest; for free! Ross’ skill and communication have been fantastic, and I am in awe of 3D printers and what they can do. Thanks for your help.”
Bryher cleverly took some photos of the control unit- plan, side and quarter views, and drew a quick sketch of the unit including the outline dimensions. This was enough for the CIC designers to set to work. Using their high tech computer aided design (CAD) software called Solidworks, they generated a model of a part which could cover the control unit sufficiently that our cheeky young client could not switch it back on, but which was quick and easy to pop on and remove without causing any damage.
As if this was not high tech enough, with a few clicks of a mouse, the model was sent to another software package to prepare it for 3D printing, which in turn was wirelessly sent to the Ultimaker 3D Printer. 3D printers are able to make plastic parts and components by melting a thin filament of plastic which is fed into the machine, and a print head deposits the plastic in place according the model file that is uploaded. This machine was very kindly donated to CIC by Mr and Mrs Coventry who run Claire’s Project. The printer has seen hundreds of hours of use and has made some amazing parts which have helped children across the UK live their lives with a little more comfort -and fun!