Ultimaker Talks Medicine, the e-Wheelchair and the Next Industrial Revolution

Posted on July 3, 2015


Ultimaker’s CREATE Education Project is a central hub for the 3D print company’s collaboration with classrooms across the UK. It also hosts a thriving community of 3D makers, including Phil Case, head honcho for the e-Wheelchair Project.

Ultimaker 2 prints for the e-Wheelchair Project. Photo: Ultimaker

Ultimaker 2 prints for the e-Wheelchair Project. Photo: Ultimaker

Making the e-Wheelchair has been a satisfying but exhausting endeavour for Phil Case. Pushed to the brink by his own physical health and medical problems – Phil is a wheelchair user – makes his achievement in building the e-Wheelchair all the more amazing. By taking an electronic Pride Fusion chair and creating 3D printed custom housings, smart glass and mind-control interfaces, along with open source Arduino electronics, Phil hopes to bring affordable next level technology to the wheelchair market and to people who need it the most.

Ultimaker’s contribution has been to donate Ultimaker and Ultimaker 2 printers and give Phil a platform for the e-Wheelchair as a CREATE community member at this year’s Maker Faire UK in Newcastle. “We saw some information on the project on Twitter and contacted Phil to offer our support,” says CREATE Project manager Michelle Chatterley. “Due to the possible life improving outcomes we offered a loan Ultimaker 2 which Phil is using to demonstrate his project.”

Robots For Good
It is not Ultimaker’s first foray into the medical market and among the expected 3D print applications – surgeons who model fractured bones to help their patients – there are others that are truly astonishing. Robots For Good‘ is an open source project supported by Ultimaker, involving 3d printed robots, spliced with Segway wheels and controlled using an Oculus Rift headset, that allow hospitalised children to visit places like London Zoo.

CREATE Education
CREATE is described by Ultimaker as an “open source collaboration” which provides teachers and schools with the support to embed 3D printing in classrooms. Spreading the Ultimaker brand into educational institutions makes sound financial sense, but it also helps to create a technical skill base, familiarity with 3D print and unlocks the potential of traditional subjects where printing artefacts from history, pieces of human anatomy or creative art projects can inspire students of all ages.

“When we brought the equipment to market in the UK it quickly became apparent that there was little or no support or resource available to teachers who have very little time to look at this themselves,” says Michelle. By creating 50 local and regional school hubs, the company wants to remove the financial barriers to 3D print in education and allow skills to radiate outwards, leaving only the limits of the imagination for 3D makers.

Ultimaker says that 75 per cent of the jobs that students starting school will have when they graduate do not exist today. Given that many of the jobs in traditional engineering and many other industries are now leaning towards 3D print, they want to plant it at the core of the educational curriculum. Next industrial revolution companies will need that support, as well as individually brilliant projects like Phil Case’s e-Wheelchair.