PICTURE YOURSELF AT the recital of a 10-year-old boy,
Wilbur (Figure 1 and featured on next page). Wilbur
plays the cello beautifully. Like many of his peers,
as he grows he needs to move to a larger instrument.
However, unlike his peers, he also needs a new device
with which to hold his cello bow. Wilbur is limb
different, with a bow arm that ends just past
his elbow. His family has worked hard to provide
access to the best resources available: he has
physical and occupational therapists and summer
camp staff who are skilled at creating custom
adaptations for him. However, creating an adaptation
that works for Wilbur and his bow is
difficult to do with existing prosthet-
ics, which were designed for general
tasks. His first cello-holding arm was
patched together with rubber bands
from a prosthetic. It was a start, but
one he quickly outgrew. However, the
best alternative specific to a stringed
instrument was hinged in all the
wrong places because it was designed
for a violin.
Consider now a community of vol-
unteers with 3D printers that can print
complex, three-dimensional physical
forms, with 3D modeling experience,
and with an enormous capacity to do-
nate their time and effort. This real-
world grassroots community—e-NABLE
( http://enablingthefuture.org) — consists
of a diverse swath of people, from Boy
and Girl Scout troops to university re-
searchers, scattered across the world.
e-NABLE innovators have 3D printed
thousands of prosthetic hands for chil-
dren. Two e-NABLErs, Drew Murray
and Stephen Davies, created the first
e-NABLE arm for children without a
wrist. They collaborated with the au-
thors to create a solution for Wilbur.
The power and potential of com-
putational fabrication technologies
to change the world is evident in this
example and the many other solutions
e-NABLErs have created for children
and adults of all abilities. In fact, we
Its Potential to
Digital fabrication technologies open new doors—
and challenges—for real-world support.
BY JENNIFER MANKOFF, MEGAN HOFMANN, XIANG ‘ANTHONY’ CHEN,
SCOTT E. HUDSON, AMY HURST, AND JEEEUN KIM
˽ Digital fabrication and craft enable
people with disabilities to create assistive
devices that meet their unique needs.
This is valuable as a tool for co-design
between researchers and people with
disabilities and as a means toward
a more accessible world for all.
˽ The creation of assistive technology
is a multidisciplinary and collaborative
effort. Beyond people with disabilities,
we must support professional and
personal caregivers who create and
co-create assistive technology.
˽ Assistive technologies involve intimate
devices often attached to the body or
embedded in a personal environment.
To match that value, digital fabrication
must support a wider variety of materials,
such as soft fabrics and strong metals.