Innovation Lab @Ross: 3D Printing, Building Prosthetics

DSC_7174 There’s an excited buzz in the air this summer when you enter the Innovation Lab @Ross. Summer Term students are busy building their original designs using 3D printed parts—from jewelry and art replicas to prosthetic hands and mini-boats.

Innovation Lab student Davi is passionate about his work. With the goal to use the new skills he learns this summer to make a difference in the lives of people struggling with disabilities, he researched medical scenarios that could benefit from 3D printed prosthetics, including symbrachydactyly, a condition where a child is born without fingers. So far, he has designed hands that would fit an average-sized man or a six-year-old child. “They will have to be a custom fit, so the most important thing is to first master the hand’s design." He plans to work with a medical institution in his native country of Brazil to produce the devices. Davi is also an amateur artist and has designed 3D printed necklaces and replicas of famous works.

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“Each of these participants was given an introduction to 3D printing, microcontrollers, and other technologies, and it has been very exciting to see them apply these tools in their unique areas of interest,” instructor Ken Coy said. 

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Elsewhere in the lab, classmates Ushar and Samir are perfecting a robotic car that can detect obstacles so that it can self-navigate. The car boasts a chassis similar to what you may see “under the hood” in a classic hot rod. After building the car, they installed an Arduino microcontroller and tackled wiring the “H bridge," an electronic circuit used in robotics that allows their car to move forward and backward; finally, they declared the vehicle “road ready.” It can now be seen zipping around the lab, successfully maneuvering around Ken's feet and avoiding the framework for a sustainable “tiny house,” currently in progress.

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Across the lab, Nick is hard at work putting the final touches on a boat for MakerBot’s Thingiversity Science Challenge: Make It Float. Students are asked to design, test, and optimize the amount of weight the boat can support. The first place prizewinner receives a 3D printer, and Nick’s new skills certainly put him in the running.

“I’ve been impressed with the level of dedication and goal setting. It’s been a fun, productive, and eventful few weeks in the Lab," Ken said.