The Casting Partner.
When attending a talk from Boeing at an additive manufacturing trade event, you would be forgiven for expecting to hear about planes and industrial manufacturing. What you wouldn’t expect to hear is a talk in the medical track centred on a small non-profit organisation but that’s exactly what the aerospace giant had on the agenda at the Additive Manufacturing User Group 2016 Conference today.
In what they’re calling “a paradigm shift in the Boeing Company”, speakers Kirk Scaggs and Dickson Dabell, revealed how the company was approached by a U.S. organisation, Olympic Peninsula Fishing Innovations (OFPI), to help with the iteration process on a free fishing device designed to assist wounded veterans in taking part in therapeutic outdoor activities.
The fly-fishing device, the Casting Partner, is a simple plastic piece that assists users who have lost the use of a limb. The piece is worn as an attachment and allows the fly-fisher to cast and fish with one hand or one arm.
Early versions of the device, designed by OPFI were manufactured using traditional methods and materials like machining and wood, until the organisation sought the help of Boeing to come up with a better way of producing the part.
For a relatively small batch run (around 1,000 devices), the costs associated with tooling and moulding, proved too expensive to justify. At its rapid prototyping lab in Seattle, Boeing enlisted its own engineers who gave up their time to experiment with 3D printing the Casting Partner as an alternative. Using a combination of FDM and SLS, their engineers managed to reduce the total number of parts on the device from eight down to just three.
For Boeing, this project has been an opportunity for them to give back to the community and recognise a social responsibility. In Kirk Scagg’s words, “it’s not what you would expect from Boeing” but it is an inspiring example of how 3D printing can play a huge role in assistive products. We see it all the time in stories from the e-NABLE project and the wider medical community but with huge industry names like Boeing offering up their expertise, perhaps other will follow suit and we will start to see that grow even further.
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