Anna Ruiter of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands is one of our $1000 Education Grant winners from the Spring 2017 grant cycle — and a Shapeways community member. Anna designs and 3D prints stylish finger splints with the goal of adapting medical devices for a better fit, both aesthetically and physically. She recently told us all about how her mother inspired her to prototype her way to the perfect fit. Want Shapeways to sponsor your student project? Grant applications are due March 25.
The inspiration behind Anna’s creation came when her mother injured her finger. She’s a stylish woman who struggled with the clunky fit and look of the medical device she was required to wear. An experienced designer of digitally fabricated rings, Anna realized she could use 3D design and printing to develop a splint that looked and felt more like a statement piece than a medical device — something her mother would be happy to wear.
Anna conceptualized a splint ring offering more than the standard function of protecting and stabilizing the finger joint: she dreamed up a splint ring that is waterproof and comfortable enough to fit seamlessly into everyday life, and just as importantly, align to the personal style of the wearer.
“Ultimately, I want to make different versions to appeal to different people, so everyone can find one that fits their style. It would also be great to be able to make versions for other joints as well (e.g., thumb) and even scale it up for larger joints like the wrist or elbow. The end result of this project will be several splint ring designs which can easily be adapted to the personal measurements of the customers, and which look like high-end pieces of jewelry instead of medical aids.”
“This project shows the possibilities of using 3D printing to solve current-day problems, like the increase in health care needs. Many people still see 3D printing as a technique just used for gadgets or decorative items, but I want to show the added value of using 3D printing for personal medical products. Combining 3D scanning and printing to optimize the fit of the product will be a challenge, but also makes it very interesting and innovative.”
Anna debuted some of her first iterations of her splint rings at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven in October 2016, where she found that several people thought the rings were beautiful enough to wear, even sans injury. That’s when Anna recognized her new goal: design a product that removes medical stigmas and provides a beautiful way to express the wearer’s style.
The $1000 Education Grant from Shapeways allowed Anna to make more prototypes than she could ordinarily afford on a student budget, so she was able to improve the quality of the fit and test her designs on several patients instead of just one, in hopes of making her invention into a customizable product. Her user testing has yielded positive results, and her sample population even gave her some additional inventive ideas, like a splint ring for injuries involving multiple fingers. Good thing multi-finger rings are already on-trend!
With the Shapeways Education Grant, Anna was also able to print her ring splint designs in our various metal materials, which she will continue to test with her audiences at this year’s Dutch Design Week.
We’re sure that Anna’s next iterations of finger splint rings will be a huge success at DDW. We’re also very proud to sponsor projects at the intersection of fashion and medicine. Stay tuned for updates on Anna’s final iterations, and in the meantime, start conceptualizing your own 3D printed project, because Fall 2017 Education Grant proposals are due on March 25!