Well what can I say?!
I had worked in the aerospace industry for over 25 years and was experienced in commercial aircraft engine maintenance, repair and overhaul. That ended in 2015 when I was made redundant. So, what came next?
An opportunity arose to work as the manufacturing workshop supervisor for SeatTech at Enable Ireland in Dublin. SeatTech develop and deliver posture management systems and provide a wheelchair service.
Trying to adjust to this posture management business wasn’t easy. When my manager asked me to attend the PMG Conference 2016, I looked at the PMG website and knew immediately that I had to get there to witness this event first hand! My experiences there were absolutely brilliant in every aspect.
The Jamaican food and water was lovely on Monday night. I met some fantastic people there too, which helped me relax and enjoy the evening, sharing stories and issues on work-related scenarios (networking). Then Tuesday was upon us, and what a way to kick start the main event with Ade Adepitan’s opening speech and short film. An inspiration to all in the way he motivates with his vibrant energy - well done Ade!
My main interest after this was the free paper by Sam Esson on 3D printing and its application to posture and mobility. [Image above of Sam Esson presenting his free paper "A practical guide to 3D printing and its application in posture & mobility" at PMG Conference 2016. Photograph courtesy of Suzie Hunt]
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created.
So, how can this benefit the specialised seating required for our service users? Well, BMW engineers have manufactured 3D printed wheelchair seats for the British Paralympic basketball team! The seat utilises a technology previously used in Formula 1 cars, providing the chair with the most aerodynamic position possible. The new moulded foam seat is customised for each player, using the latest 3D scanning and 3D printing technology. It reduces the chair’s weight, and enables the athlete to move faster, and to adapt better in the chair.
Firstly, the athletes are 3D scanned in a seated position. A 3D computer aided design (CAD) model is then created from this data, which is then 3D printed using an Electro Optical System (EOS) system — the EOSINT P 395 in this case — producing customised seats for the athletes. The process takes only two days.
One of the players, Ade Orogbemi, says: The new seat has improved my game enormously. The stability gives me the ability to turn quickly, both going right and left, which I was unable to do before. The extra speed it gives me around the court makes it easier to defend against the best attacking sides in the world to give us that unique advantage. I believe it is allowing me to play my best ever basketball.
3D printed wheelchairs are not the only hi-tech application used by Paralympians. Prosthetic body parts and other cutting-edge technology support devices have been applied for the athletes in order to create custom fit solutions. I can’t wait to delve into this to help us uncover better solutions to aid our service users.
Apologies for not mentioning all the other speakers that I heard at PMG. I will eventually understand more about all the topics discussed, but one step at a time for me.
Thanks to all the suppliers and other people I met; hopefully I will see you all again soon.
Special thanks to PMG for inviting me to this wonderful, well-run event; no doubt PMG will thrive for a long time to come with great people at the helm. Hope to see you all next time!
Slán leat agus go raibh míle maith agat. (Goodbye and thank you.)