Harnessing the Power of 3D Printing to Advance Inclusivity
As a physical education teacher for the past 17 years, Joe Kabes has worked with a diverse student population. To include and engage students of all abilities, Kabes searched for adaptive physical recreation equipment, only to encounter a limited range of options available on the market, especially for those with limited motor abilities and visual impairments. In an effort to meet this need, Kabes established Inclusivity, Inc. and created the Overcomer™, a groundbreaking piece of adapted sports equipment for his students that would “create a sense of inclusion, independence, and increase self-esteem.”
With limited upfront capital to manufacture 18 different parts via injection molding or CNC machining, Kabes started a fundraising campaign for his adapted sporting equipment. Leveraging its ability to move an idea to prototyping to low-volume manufacturing of specialized products, Kabes turned to 3D printing.
The initial design and resulting 3D-printed prototype of the Overcomer, however, did not meet Kabes’ need for affordable short-run production. For help in improving his design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) and production of the Overcomer, Kabes partnered with Avid Product Development.
“It was important to find a partner with product design skills and who offers flexible manufacturing for smaller quantities in durable and strong materials. Avid has the capabilities to develop and manufacture [the Overcomer]. The awesome part is that Avid could do all of it.”
DESIGNING FOR PRODUCTION
After analyzing the current state of the prototype and what it needs to become, the engineering team at Avid Product Development concluded that the design should be reworked for production using HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing in PA12 – a strong, durable, functional material that achieves the lowest cost per part.
The first step in developing a more efficient design was decreasing overall wall thickness and integrating ribs for added structural support. Next lightweighting methods were employed to make the heavy overbuilt parts weigh less while retaining, or even improving, their mechanical functionality. Avid’s mechanical engineers created lattice structures, an effective design for additive manufacturing technique for lightweighting, to minimize the weight of the housing component.
The use of lattice structures enabled Avid to increase overall surface area and distribute material in the most structurally effective way possible, resulting in a lightweight part with optimized weight-to-strength ratios. To reduce stress concentration and ensure structural integrity, fillets were added to the housing’s interior and exterior lattices.
[Learn more about DfAM with lattice structures here]
Through part consolidation – another advantage of design for additive manufacturing – the team at Avid improved the functionality and assembly of the joint by integrating 3D printed spring bars to push dowel pins into place.
The redesigned joint not only consolidated the number of components, but increased durability with fewer seams and tighter tolerances as well. By eliminating the need for metal fasteners, part consolidation also contributed to weight reduction and cost savings.
These design modifications resulted in a product optimized for additive manufacturing with a 60% decrease in printed volume and cost per part.
“Avid took my rough first round prototype and made it super durable and functional. The removal of unnecessary material made it more streamlined while keeping it within patent requirements.”
Kabes took his patented idea and design to Flaghouse, a premier global source of quality equipment and programs serving physical education, recreation and special needs. Licensed and distributed by Flaghouse, the Overcomer has been in production since February 2022 with Avid manufacturing on-demand.
“This is a great relationship all around – a perfect symphony. Avid worked with us intricately and flexibly.”
Developed to take advantage of the design freedom that comes with 3D printing, design for additive manufacturing unlocks a host of benefits – from lightweighting with lattice structures to assembly consolidation – to create innovative products that would otherwise be too difficult or costly to justify with conventional manufacturing methods. Thanks to its abilities for optimal development and flexible production, 3D printing is a versatile technology to support physical educators and help people with special needs live their lives to the fullest.
The FlagHouse Overcomer is the ultimate in adapted sports equipment.
This unique adapted sports equipment allows users with limited motor abilities and/or visual impairments swing, throw, and strike lightweight plastic sports equipment indoors and out. Designed to create an inclusive experience, the FlagHouse Overcomer promotes independence, increases user success, builds positive self-esteem, and supports overall well-being. The versatile product is portable with easy setup and can easily be adjusted from 24.5” to 33.5” in height to meet any user’s size and age.
Visit the FlagHouse website to learn more and purchase.