Illinois Student Senate to fund 3-D printer for disability resources

A 3-D printer at Westtown High School prints out parts for an artificial hand designed by Westtown engineering students for eight-year-old Steele Songle, April 18, 2014, in West Chester, Pa. (Ron Tarver/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT)

By Lilly Mashayek

The Illinois Student Senate, ISS, passed a resolution to allocate funds for a new 3-D printer for the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services, DRES.

The printer will initially be used to print gloves for University wheelchair athletes to help reduce injuries and improve the efficiency of the athletes. In the future, the printer may be used for modifications to wheelchairs too.

Rausin, senior in Business, drafted the original proposal. She said she hopes the 3-D printer will help students with athletics as well as in their everyday lives.

Rausin said she thinks more interest will be generated once the printer is fully in-use.

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“Arielle did a lot of research on it, and she saw a need for a 3-D printer,” said Rahul Kalluri, junior in LAS and ISS treasurer. “(Applied Health Science) doesn’t get a lot of funding and DRES gets even less funding.”

The cost of the $1,200 printer will be paid for by ISS, as well as three spools of plastic that cost $96 Kalluri said.

The printer model, FlashForge Creator, is the unbranded version of the same printer currently being used in the College of Business, which makes the cost of the printer much lower, Kalluri said.

Adam Bleakney, head coach of wheelchair track and road racing, said he is excited for all of the opportunities the printer may provide.

“Arielle has been the driving force behind looking at new technology to enhance the athletic team and active daily living for wheelchair users,” Bleaney said.

The gloves the athletes previously used were made of a moldable plastic that was difficult to use and cracked over time.

While the old gloves took as long as two days to make, the new 3-D printer will be able to print them in as little as five hours. The new gloves will be half the weight of the old gloves and will be able to be customized more precisely, based on the needs of the athlete.

“The glove technology that we use has been groundbreaking,” Bleakney said. “This is a huge step for us to be able to duplicate and have multiple pairs of gloves disposable at one time.”

While DRES is currently planning to use the printer for racing gloves, they are also looking at ways to use the technology in students’ everyday lives.

“There are a lot of other areas in which we can utilize this for sports performance gains, but also other opportunities that are not sports related, such as certain design changes made to everyday wheelchairs,” Bleakney said.

He said Rausin will be responsible for managing the printer because she is the one with the most experience using the technology.

Matt Hill, senior in LAS and student body vice president external, said being able to provide services like the printer is part of what makes the University one of the national leaders in disability services.

“How thankful I am that the student senate approved the resolution,” Rausin said. It’s going to help the 1,750 kids who use DRES.”

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