Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Adaptive aids with 3D printing

Hello Machine Bros!
Today we will show you different examples, news and models of adaptive aids with 3D printing.

The Machine Bros promotes and believes in the enormous benefits of 3D printing as a technological tool.

Therefore, we wanted to write this article for you, where we will show you how much we can contribute to society with 3D printing, and specifically in this case we will talk about how we can help people with special conditions or disabilities by 3D printing adaptive aids.

Table of Contents Hide

What is Assistive Technology (Adaptive Aid)?

The definition of assistive technologies or adaptive aids, is: They are any product (including devices, equipment, instruments, technology and software) that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capacities of people with disabilities or special conditions.

This type of technology promotes independence and the empowerment of the person so that they can access or perform a task that they were unable to fulfill, or that they had great difficulty in performing.

With 3D printing we could get into this area, and it is specifically what we will talk about throughout this article.

Makers are known for loving technology, providing solutions to problems with it, working in teams or communities, it is for all this that many makers have been 3D printing these adaptive aids for quite some time.

Adaptive aids with 3D printing

Next, we want to show you a collection of some adaptive aids printed in 3D:

Open Assistive Technology – Key Turner

3D printed key turner
Key Turner

It is a kind of support or holder for keys, with which people with a motor impairment could use their keys to open locks in a simpler way, with less physical effort.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Easy Zipper for Assistive Technology Challenge

3D Printed Easy Zipper
3D Printed Easy Zipper

It is a base that allows the zipper or closure to be enlarged, it is useful for people who have some motor impairment.

With this invention, there is a greater holding area. You can access this design by clicking here.

Assistive Technology: Bag Holder

3D Printed Bag Holder Aid
Bag Holder Aid

It is a device that makes it easy to carry objects such as bags, wallets and the like, without having to resort to great force with your hands.

It is useful for people who have some motor deficiency in their hands.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Assistive Technology: Parametric Ring Pen Holder

3D Printed Pen Holder Aid
Pen Holder Aid

This design seeks to facilitate writing in people who have difficulty writing, due to some motor deficiency that they could be presenting in their hands.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Mouth Cable Bobbin for Assistive Technology Challenge

3D Printed Mouth Cable Bobbin
Mouth Cable Bobbin

It is a device that looks for a way that a person, for whatever reason, could wind or wind their headphones using their mouth and one hand.

You can access this design by clicking here.

If you want to see a video of its operation you can do so by clicking here.

Bowers Assistive Fork Direct

3D Printed Cutlery handling aid
Cutlery handling aid

The idea of this device is to facilitate the handling of cutlery or eating utensils, to those people who have a disability or special condition that restricts them to use them easily.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Knife Assistant

3D Printed Knife handling aid
Knife handling aid

If for some reason someone cannot use a knife with only one hand (usually it would be for people with little physical strength), this invention seeks to facilitate this task for these individuals, with this 3D printed object it could be used both hands to exert more pressure or force with the knife.

You can access this design by clicking here.

The UnLimbited Arm v2.1 – Alfie Edition

3D Printed Prosthetic Arm
3D Printed Prosthetic Arm

This is a 3D-printed prosthetic arm, a very interesting project, tested and functional.

You can access this design by clicking here.

If you want to see a video of its operation you can do so by clicking here.

Country Maps

3D Printed Relief Map of Brazil
3D Printed Relief Map of Brazil

This is a relief map of Brazil.

Just as there is this version of Brazil, other makers have been responsible for providing more maps of other countries or locations.

The intention of these maps is that, by having reliefs, people with visual disabilities, through touch, are able to identify the geographical limits in order to interpret said maps.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Prototyping Toolkit for Low-Tech Extensions of a Prosthetic Arm

3D Printed Toolkit for Low-Tech Extensions of a Prosthetic Arm
Toolkit for Low-Tech Extensions of a Prosthetic Arm

Here we have another super interesting project, an arm prosthesis, but more focused on mechanical use, with the intention of making it easier for the user to perform certain tasks that involve manual and mechanical skills.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Fin Gripper (Robotic/Prosthetic Hybrid) – Mark VI

3D Printed Hand Prothesis
3D Printed Hand Prothesis

This is a hand prosthesis, this design is intended to be used by people who cannot hold things with their fingers, either because they were amputated, due to lack of physical strength due to some pre-existing condition, or for any other reason.

But it is necessary for the user to have some mobility in the hand to be able to operate the mechanism of this device.

You can access this design by clicking here.

If you want to see a video of its operation you can do so by clicking here.

Assistive Bottle Opener

Assistive Bottle Opener
Assistive Bottle Opener

This 3D printed object has the purpose that people with lack of strength in their hands, can more easily open (unscrew) the caps of the bottles.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Drink holder

3D Printed Drink holder aid
Drink holder aid

Hand clamp with cup holder.

Designed to be used by people who have trouble grasping or holding an object with their fingers.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Braille and 3D printing

First of all, we would like to give you a brief definition of what Braille is: It is a tactile reading and writing system designed for blind people.

It is also known as cecography.

It was devised in the mid-19th century by Frenchman Louis Braille, who became blind due to an accident during his childhood while playing in his father’s workshop.

When he was 13 years old, the director of the School for the Blind and Deaf in Paris (where the young Braille was studying) asked him to test a tactile literacy system invented by a military man named Charles Barbier de la Serre to transmit orders to outposts without need to reveal the position at night.

Louis Braille discovered after a while that the system was valid and reinvented it using an 8-point system.

After a few years, he simplified it, leaving it in the universally known and adopted 6-point system.

Braille Alphabet
Braille Alphabet

A curious fact about braille is that it is also a binary numbering system that preceded the advent of computers.

With 3D printing, the Braille method can be used to somehow improve the quality of life of people with visual disabilities, for this reason, we want to show you some examples.

Braille Rubik’s Cube

3D Printed Braille Rubik’s Cube
Braille Rubik’s Cube

The idea is to modify the Rubik’s cube to make it usable for the visually impaired.

This is a design where small squares containing reliefs are 3D printed, then we modify the Rubik’s cube by pasting the 3D printed squares where the colors were initially.

You can access this design by clicking here.

D20 (20-sided dice) With Braille Numbers

3D Printed 20-sided dice with Braille numbers
20-sided dice with Braille numbers

3D Printed 20-sided dice containing the numbers written in Braille.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Braille Learning Board V2

3D Printed Braille Learning Board
Braille Learning Board

A 3D printable table containing the alphabet written in Braille.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Reusable Braille 2L Bottle “Bow Tie” Labels

Aid to identify a bottle content
Aid to identify a bottle content

This invention consists of 3D printed reusable identifiers for bottles.

The intention of this design is that through Braille people with visual disabilities are able to identify the content of the bottle.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Costs of Adaptive Equipment

In a study titled “Economic Potential for Distributed Manufacturing of Adaptive Aids for Arthritis Patients in the U.S.” Developed by Nicole Gallup, Jennifer Bow and Joshua Pearce, they discussed the economic benefits of 3D printing adaptive aids for people with arthritis.

In this study, among the aspects analyzed, they compare the costs of acquiring these items by buying them and printing them in 3D.

It is a very interesting article, for this reason, we want to share it with you.

Find below a table showing the price comparison.

Source: “Economic Potential for Distributed Manufacturing of Adaptive Aids for Arthritis Patients in the U.S.”

Now, so that you can understand a little better what they are and what function these adaptive aids mentioned above perform, we will attach a table where we will give you a brief description of these aids.

We will also provide you with the links so that you can access the designs, and finally, some images that represent each aid.

We still want to leave you the link to the complete article, to access it you just have to click here.

ImageAdaptive AidDescriptionDesign
1Scissor aidEnables the use of scissors using palm for cutting and fist for opening.Link
2Car seat aidCar seat buckle depressor using a living hinge.Link
3Drawer aidDrawer and cabinet opener with built in can opener.Link
4Light switch aidEasier access for turning on and off light switches.Link
5Sock aidAn assistive aid for putting on socks that will not slip on carpet.Link
6Knife guide aid Used to cut up ingredients with large handle attached.Link
7Phone holder aidAttaches to write for the easy accessibility of your phone.Link
8Zipper pull aidUsed to pull up zippers of necessary clothing items.Link
9Knitting aidLarge blocks for a better grip on the knitting needles.Link
10Pen holder aidProvides a larger area that encompasses the pen to hold in hand.Link
11Nail clipper aid Provides easy access to clip one’s nails by using the palm of your hand.Link
12Cane holder aidAllows the user to hang their cane for easy access.Link
13Key aidAttaches to the user’s key for a larger surface area to grab on to.Link
14Typing aidRound ball can be customized for palm size and allows user to type on keyboard easier.Link
15Pop can aidAssists in the opening of pop cans by use of a hook.Link
16Dog leash aidUses a “lock and key” method to hold onto your dog’s leash.Link
17Gas cap aidEasy grip handle to be able to open gas cap on car.Link
18Handle adapter aidAbility to attach to any handle for easier use and grip.Link
19Toothbrush aidEnables user to grab their toothbrush more easily. Can be customized for hand size.Link
20Pill splitter aidUsers can use their palm to push down and split their medication.Link
Source “Economic Potential for Distributed Manufacturing of Adaptive Aids for Arthritis Patients in the U.S.”
Scissor aid and Car seat aid
Drawer aid and Light switch aid
Sock aid and Knife guide aid
Phone holder aid and Zipper pull aid
Knitting aid and Pen holder aid
Nail clipper aid and Cane holder aid
Key aid and Typing aid
Pop can aid and Dog leash aid
Gas cap aid and Handle adapter aid
Toothbrush aid and Pill splitter aid

Is it Possible to Use 3D Printing to Help Animals too?

Yes, this is excellent news for all those animal-loving makers.

3D printing can be used to help animals that for some reason have lost some part of their body or were simply born without it.

For this reason, we want to show you some examples of this.

3D Printed Prostheses for Pets

“Researchers from the ULE develop low-cost and custom-made prostheses for pets that have suffered an amputation in one of their limbs.”

This is reported by El Correo de Burgos (Article in Spanish).

Rubén Ferrero, José Manuel Gonzalo, José María Rivera, Francisco Jesús Rodríguez and José Antonio Rodríguez-Altonaga at the Universidad de León – Image from El Mundo

A 3D Printed Beak for a Toucan Named Grecia

“A toucan with the name of Grecia”, who received a 3D prosthesis after losing half his beak due to human aggression, has become a symbol against animal cruelty in Costa Rica and on social media.

This is reported by Los tiempos. (Article in Spanish)

“A toucan with the name of Grecia”, who received a 3D prosthesis
Image of Greece with 3D printed prosthesis – Image from AFP

3D Printed Titanium Pick for a Red Crowned Crane

“The tripartite team worked on developing the best design for the red-crowned crane beak by studying the anatomy of the species and by creating a series of prototypes.

After testing seven versions of the beak prosthesis made of plastic, the team arrived at the final design.

The chosen model was sent to the Additive Manufacturing Laboratory, which made a 3D impression in titanium of the prosthesis for the crane with the latest generation of three-dimensional printers”.

This is reported by Imprimalia 3D (Article in spanish).

Image of the crane with the 3D printed titanium prosthesis
Image of the crane with the 3D printed titanium prosthesis

Custom Boot Designed for an Injured Penguin

“Students using end-to-end 3D systems solutions integrate 3D scanning, design and 3D printing to deliver a custom fit boot for penguins with damaged limbs.”

This is reported by Goaltech. (Article in Spanish)

Image of the boot with the 3D print for the injured penguin
Image of the boot with the 3D print for the injured penguin

A Penguin Gets to Walk Again Thanks to 3D Prints

“The first week of June 2016, Bagpipes (the penguin’s name) got his plastic leg, which he is adjusting to.

Its manufacture took 30 hours and according to Clucas, the most difficult part was scanning the leg, because it is quite restless (referring to the penguin) ”.

This is reported by Mott. (Article in Spanish)

A penguin gets to walk again thanks to 3D prints
Image of Bagpipes with the prosthesis printed in 3D – Image from T13

With Broken Beak, Toucan is Operated at the Zoo in Brasilia

“In Brasilia, a team associated with the clinic takes digital images of the beak.

They are sent to a designer in Mato Grosso, who transforms them in 3D.

In social media groups, doctors talk to each other and evaluate the result.

Once approved, the material is sent to Santos, where the forensic dentist Paulo Minioto converts the file for 3D printing”.

This is reported by Metropoles. (Article in Spanish)

With broken beak, toucan is operated at the zoo in Brasilia
3D printed prosthesis for Toucan in order to restore the function of the broken beak in Brasilia – photo fromTony Winston / Agência Brasília

Let’s Not Just Limit Ourselves to 3D Printing

By saying “Let’s not just limit ourselves to 3D printing” we mean that we can combine 3D printing techniques with other tools, technologies and knowledge.

In other words, we could use Arduino or Raspberry Pi in conjunction with 3D printing to create adaptive aids (also known as assistive technologies or assistive technologies), we could make use of electronics, electricity, physics, chemistry, and a host of technological and scientific alternatives that we can combine with 3D printing, this with the aim of achieving a greater good.

For this reason, we want to present you some examples.

Assistive Technology Mouse (ATMouse)

This device is designed with the intention of offering a solution to computer users who due to a disability or physical condition find it difficult to use a normal mouse, but can still press buttons.

Users with Parkinson’s disease, any condition related to tremors, cerebral palsy, and many other conditions that interfere with users’ ability to perform precise hand movements.

The device is based on the Arduino Pro Micro controller (Leonardo compatible) and is therefore a plug and play input device, which means it will be recognized as a USB mouse without the need for additional drivers.

You can access this design by clicking here.

Assistive Technology Mouse
Assistive Technology Mouse

AT Switch

AT switches allow users with special needs and/or physical disabilities to activate devices in their environment.

What seems as simple as a button, configured, adapted, and used in the right way could allow access to communication devices, environmental controls, computer software, mobile devices, etc.

You can access this design by clicking here.

3D Printed AT Switch
AT Switch

BrailleTooth – Bluetooth Braille Keyboard

For now, this is only a prototype.

Its creators have not published the source code.

This prototype is designed so that people with visual disabilities can use their smartphones through buttons that contain the Braille language.

The device would connect via Bluetooth to the smartphone.

You can access this design by clicking here.

3D Printed BrailleTooth


The LipSync is an assistive device, which allows quadriplegics and other people with limited hand mobility to use touch screen devices, manipulating a joystick with their mouth, it can also be sipped and blown as the LipSync recognizes these actions.

The unit gives users the ability to control an on-screen cursor with minimal head and mouth movements, allowing them to independently send text messages, make phone calls, and browse the web.

It can be used with most Android and Windows phones and tablets, and with all laptops and desktops.

The designers are looking to release this open-source device to make LipSync a solution that can be developed at the community level for less than $300 (including electronic components).

You can access this design by clicking here.

3D Printed LipSync

Bot Legs Project (Exoskeleton)

The idea of this prototype is to help people walk, who have some motor controls but do not have enough strength to walk.

The electric motors would amplify their movements thus allowing greater mobility.

It should be noted that for the design of this device an Arduino, solid-state relays, DC motors, among other components, are used.

At the moment, the design is only a prototype.

You can access this by clicking here.

Bot Legs Project
Bot Legs Project

Smart Cane for Visually Impaired People

This project consists of a smart cane for people with visual disabilities.

It is a device adaptable to traditional poles, which greatly reduces costs.

The rod uses an Arduino as a controller, uses two ultrasonic sensors to measure distances, a DC motor, vibrator, batteries, etc.

If the smart cane detects any object on top of the user, it will vibrate steadily.

If the cane detects an unevenness, a gap, a step, among others, depths equal to or greater than 10cm, at the user’s lower level (on the ground), the cane will vibrate once for every 10cm in height, that is, if the user encounters a 40cm step, the cane will emit 4 pulses, which means that it will vibrate 4 times, once for every 10cm.

This in order that the user can have an idea of how deep the slope is.

You can access this design on Thingiverse by clicking here.

You can access all the project files (in Spanish) on Google Drive by clicking here.

You can see the video of the prototype operation by clicking here.

You can access more images by clicking here.

Smart cane for visually impaired people
Smart cane for visually impaired people

Virtual Community Ready to Help

Makers are characterized by working as a team, currently, there are virtual communities of organized 3D printing fans willing to help by creating adaptive aids.

Among the various communities that we can find on the web, here at The Machine Bros, we want to show you the following two:


e-NABLE is a global and virtual community of volunteers who use their 3D printers to manufacture free and/or low-cost prostheses, which are usually upper limbs for children and adults who require it.

The open-source designs created by e-NABLE volunteers help those who were born without fingers and hands, or perhaps lost due to war, natural disaster, illness or accident.

There are approximately 20,000 e-NABLE volunteers in more than 100 countries who have given hands and arms to approximately 8,000 recipients.

To access the e-NABLE page you just have to click here.


Makers Making Change

Makers Making Change offers a platform so that makers, whether they are engineers, hobbyists, students, corporations, among others, can have their time as volunteers to create solutions to the projects found in the Makers Making Change library.

People with disabilities, their family members or professionals in this branch, can request a project that they believe will help address the barriers that generate the disability or special condition of an individual.

Makers Making Change allows designs to be freely downloaded so that trained volunteers from a community can work with the recipient to ensure that the project meets their needs.

The platform allows everyone to publish and share open-source assistive technology designs, made both by the organization (Makers Making Change) and by other manufacturers.

In general, people can share ideas, solutions and review existing projects.

To access the Makers Making Change page, just click here.

Makers Making Change

Free Course on Designing Adaptive Aids

We have excellent news for you, if you are passionate about the idea of helping with this type of initiative, creating adaptive aids, but you feel that you do not have enough knowledge to carry out these projects, we tell you that it is possible to take a totally free course to study and learn more about this topic.

For this reason, we ourselves decided to take this course, to tell you a little more about it, the pros and cons that we could observe.


  • The course is completely free
  • It has a lot of visual and audio-visual content
  • Very well explained
  • It has examples
  • Facilitates 3D files for later printing


  • The course is more dedicated to teaching a class, that is, it seems to be more focused on teachers. The course exposes the process by which they explain to students how to generate assistive technologies. For this reason, if you do not have any knowledge of 3D printing, CAD design, among others, this course may not help you much. But in general lines, you will find good content that will give you a better idea about how to generate adaptive aids using 3D printing.
  • You may need to use a VPN to access the course from some countries.

This course can be found at PrintLab and is developed in conjunction with Makers Making Change.

The name of the course is “Assistive Device Academy”.

You can access this course by clicking here.

Assistive Device Academy

Let’s 3D Print Some Adaptive Assistive Devices

Next, we will show you the impressions made by ourselves of 4 adaptive aids, the STL files to print these pieces can be found in the free course that we just mentioned “Assistive Device Academy”.

Remember to activate the subtitles by clicking on the CC button:

Assistive Bottle Opener

3D Printed Bottle Opener

Bag Carrier

3D Printed Bag Carrier

Can Opener

3D Printed Can Opener

Key Turner

3D Printed Key Turner

Now that we 3D printed these aids, the intention of The Machine Bros is to collaborate, either by teaching about certain topics or by executing other actions.

Therefore, we made the decision to donate these printed pieces, so that, if someone ever needs them, that person can access the printed aids and put them to good use.

In order for these pieces to end up in the hands of someone who needs them, we donate them to a Pharmacy called Farma Store, which has a very good influx of people, so they will give away these adaptive aids.

Conclusions About Adaptive Aids with 3D Printing

3D printing can contribute a lot to society, together we can do great things, make a difference, and this is an essential part of the makers culture.

In 3D printing, we are capable of creating adaptive aids (also known as assistive technologies or assistive technologies), not only this, but we can also greatly reduce costs, thus making this type of technology more accessible for the people who need it.

As mentioned in the introduction, we cannot define technology as “good or bad”, technology is a tool, and in the hands of the right people, many positive things can be generated.

So maker, here at The Machine Bros we want to encourage you, motivate you, give you the knowledge and tools so that you can be part of this wave of good actions and positive changes, as we have already explained, there are virtual communities of makers that work together to generate solutions.

So if you wish, we hope that with this article you can have the impulse to start creating assistive technologies, whether you develop it from scratch, download it from a repository, or join a community of makers, the intention is what counts, every good deed allows us to grow more as individuals and as a society.


See you soon Machine Bros!



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