The Daily Illini

Editorial: Use 3D printers to create a difference for those who need it

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

The Illinois Student Senate has plans to buy a $1,200 3D printer for Disability Resources and Educational Services.

While 2015 may not be what many predicted it to be — just take a look at “Back to the Future II” — technology has still advanced enough to create some remarkable innovations, which allow for continued research and advancements within thousands of fields. In recent memory, the most notable such advancement is the 3D printer.

3D printers allow users to create three dimensional, physical objects from digital files. To date, 3D printers have produced firearms, musical instruments and much more. Now, DRES might own one and take advantage of all its benefits.

At just under 2 percent of the Senate’s budget, the printer is a high-value purchase. One can only imagine the possibilities a 3D printer could offer when geared toward helping those with disabilities.

At a University that specializes in Engineering, research and creating a foundation for technological advancements would be a perfect backdrop for those services.

This 3D printer could be a great addition for the University and the resources it has the ability to provide could prove invaluable for the campus community. That being said, the University and DRES need to utilize the 3D printer to ensure it’s being used for the most appropriate reasons.

When asked about the precise reasons why DRES wanted the printer, racing gloves for wheelchair racing were a key element included. While it’s a great idea to increase resources for our Wheelchair Track and Road Racing teams, this resource could be used for exponentially more.

Progress for not just students on campus, but others in the community with disabilities, should be the top priority for this 3D printer.

Take Albert Manero and his team, Limbitless Solutions, from the University of Central Florida.

Limbitless Solutions is a nonprofit that uses 3D printers to create bionic, prosthetic limbs for children. You’ve hopefully seen the viral video on social media promoting Manero’s product when a young boy was given an Ironman-themed bionic arm by none other than Robert Downey Jr. himself.

Manero and UCF have paired up to create a difference for young children who not many were looking out for. Limbitless’ prosthetic limbs cost around $350 in materials, compared to the normal costs of prosthetic limbs, that can range up to $40,000.

We can’t make a claim in favor or against the reasons why DRES and the Illinois Student Senate want to buy the printer seeing as nothing has been printed yet and it hasn’t officially been purchased.

There are several other 3D printers on campus, and we hope the research continues to be developed and put into action using the technology, but if a printer is given to DRES, the purposes should be unique to the department and those it aims to assist.

This is our call to these organizations and the University: Please use the printer for the better good of those who need it. Whether that be advancements of wheelchair construction or creating prosthetic limbs, the need to create a difference using a 3D printer is not just fiscally responsible, but more than possible.

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