After my injury when I started making adaptive equipment I used materials from around the house for most of the “tools” I made and they were relatively simple. As I have said so many times success leads to more success and slowly my “creations” became more complicated and I started using other materials that could be bought easily at local stores.
When I first found out about three-dimensional design, I thought, as I still do, that the potential is there for great benefit for individuals with disabilities. I had no design experience, other than my own little projects, but I thought with effort and hard work I would be able to figure it out after a while. I wanted to produce inexpensive items whose 3-D image could be used freely by anyone and the adaptive equipment made at manufacturer’s cost. It has become obvious to me that while well intended I was pretty naïve about designing 3-D adaptive equipment. It is a fairly exacting activity and the computer produces just what the 3-D image shows. Some of my early attempts did not come to fruition because of design mistakes that I made.
A continuing number of problems have helped me realize just how naïve I really was. First if you create your own design you have no idea if it will work or not until it is made and you can try it. If the item doesn’t work you must either redesign and submit it again or abandon it altogether and start anew as has been done with the adaptive trigger.
Another problem is measurements must be exact. No room for error. This includes tubing sizes, hole diameter and depth to mention a few. A caliper was purchased to help make more exact measurements. Also some desirable features are eliminated because of the degree of difficulty, such as placing screw threads in or around an object.
Each time a 3D image is submitted you must pay to have it made and shipped. Shipping costs can be outrageous as charged by one manufacturer.
Compound these problems by only having a very general description of the properties of the materials you can use in the manufacture process. White, Strong & Flexible used to describe the default plastic on one website.
I believe the most useful item for individuals in wheelchairs would be a mounting system so this has been my primary effort. A mount would facilitate the attachment of other pieces of equipment, such as a table, to the wheelchair. To the left is my design of a wheelchair bracket. The lower base would attach to the pan of the chair and the top part would attach to the base. The total cost for the entire mount would be approximately $100. After communication with the manufacturer I went with his recommendations as far as material went. This was my second submission of this item. When I received the mount my excitement grew as everything seemed to be exactly as designed. I placed the tubing of the table in the mount and tightened the wing-nut. Eureka it worked, the tubing was held fast and upright. Several hours later I went to release the tubing. However, while the material was described as flexible it had no memory which meant it would not return to its original size and release the tubing. Looking at the picture below you can see that the opening from the hole is still narrow at the front end.
Finally, you must absorb the cost of your failures. No items can be returned nor the material reused. While many small items are inexpensive relatively small items that are solid can be very costly. So, now I’m wondering where I go from here.