Prosthetic limbs and assistive technology (AT) require customization and modification over time to effectively meet the needs of end users. Yet, this process is typically costly and, as a result, abandonment rates are very high. Rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printing have begun to alleviate this issue by making it possible to inexpensively, and iteratively create general AT designs and prosthetics. However for effective use, technology must be applied using design methods that support physical rapid prototyping and can accommodate the unique needs of a specific user. While most research has focused on the tools for creating fitted assistive devices, we focus on the requirements of a design process that engages the user and designer in the rapid iterative prototyping of prosthetic devices.

We present a case study of three participants with upper-limb amputations working with researchers to design prosthetic devices for specific tasks. Kevin wanted to play the cello, Ellen wanted to ride a hand-cycle (a bicycle for people with lower limb mobility impairments), and Bret wanted to use a table knife. Our goal was to identify requirements for a design process that can engage the assistive technology user in rapidly prototyping assistive devices that fill needs not easily met by traditional assistive technology. Our study made use of 3D printing and other playful and practical prototyping materials. We discuss materials that support on-the-spot design and iteration, dimensions along which in-person iteration is most important (such as length and angle) and the value of a supportive social network for users who prototype their own assistive technology. From these findings we argue for the importance of extensions in supporting modularity, community engagement, and relatable prototyping materials in the iterative design of prosthetics

Prosthetic limbs and assistive technology (AT) require customization and modification over time to effectively meet the needs of end users. Yet, this process is typically costly and, as a result, abandonment rates are very high. Rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printing have begun to alleviate this issue by making it possible to inexpensively, and iteratively create general AT designs and prosthetics. However for effective use, technology must be applied using design methods that support physical rapid prototyping and can accommodate the unique needs of a specific user. While most research has focused on the tools for creating fitted assistive devices, we focus on the requirements of a design process that engages the user and designer in the rapid iterative prototyping of prosthetic devices.

We present a case study of three participants with upper-limb amputations working with researchers to design prosthetic devices for specific tasks. Kevin wanted to play the cello, Ellen wanted to ride a hand-cycle (a bicycle for people with lower limb mobility impairments), and Bret wanted to use a table knife. Our goal was to identify requirements for a design process that can engage the assistive technology user in rapidly prototyping assistive devices that fill needs not easily met by traditional assistive technology. Our study made use of 3D printing and other playful and practical prototyping materials. We discuss materials that support on-the-spot design and iteration, dimensions along which in-person iteration is most important (such as length and angle) and the value of a supportive social network for users who prototype their own assistive technology. From these findings we argue for the importance of extensions in supporting modularity, community engagement, and relatable prototyping materials in the iterative design of prosthetics

Photos

Project Files

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2365703

Project Publications

Helping Hands: Requirements for a Prototyping Methodology for Upper-limb Prosthetics Users

Reference:

Megan Kelly Hofmann, Jeffery Harris, Scott E Hudson, Jennifer Mankoff. 2016.Helping Hands: Requirements for a Prototyping Methodology for Upper-limb Prosthetics Users. InProceedings of the 34th Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 525-534.

Making Connections: Modular 3D Printing for Designing Assistive Attachments to Prosthetic Devices

Reference:

Megan Kelly Hofmann. 2015. Making Connections: Modular 3D Printing for Designing Assistive Attachments to Prosthetic Devices. In Proceedings of the 17th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers & Accessibility (ASSETS ’15). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 353-354. DOI=http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2700648.2811323