Spinning the wheels of innovation and mobility with 3D printing

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
(Raffles Institution student and winner of the Singapore School category (personal mobility vehicles) Li Bozhao, 19, with Wind and Fire, a pair of skates inspired by Taoist god Nezha. PHOTO: NTU)

A Nezha-inspired pair of skates, a wheelchair with an “armadillo”-styled shelter, a customisable foldable kick scooter and a stylised walker for the elderly.

These were among six winning entries of the 6th Singapore 3D Printing Competition recognised for their innovative design and functionality. The event was held at Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s Nanyang Executive Centre on Tuesday (15 May).

The winning entries are prime examples of how “3D printing can be used to print products of complex designs in a single build, which conventional manufacturing cannot do”, said Professor Chua Chee Kai, Executive Director of the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing and Chair of Pro-AM 2018.

This year’s competition, organised by NTU in conjunction with the bi-annual Progress in Additive Manufacturing Conference (Pro-AM), centres around two themes: personal and elderly mobility devices.

It saw a total of 26 entries, consisting of local and international participants, including those from France, Norway, China and Taiwan.

The winner of the open category clinched the top prize of $10,000 while the winners of the school and tertiary categories each won $5,000.

Winning entries for this year’s competition. (PHOTO: NTU)

Li Bozhao, a J2 student at Raffles Institution, won the Singapore School category (personal mobility vehicles) with his Wind and Fire skates – a pair of 3D-printed rings with hidden ball bearings. The 19-year-old modelled the design after Nezha, a fabled Chinese god who could fly with a pair of magical rings.

“Singapore is a city and a hybrid (of different cultures). But when all of them blend together, they are gradually losing their uniqueness,” said Li, who spent about $500 and a few months to work on the prototype. “I wanted to make a mobility device that when people use it to walk on the streets, people can see that the culture is alive and young.”

This year’s competition is not the first for the international student. Li took part in the previous two years, and also walked away with the top prize in the schools category in 2016.

Lam Tian Xiang, 21, a third-year student at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), walked away with the top prize in the Singapore Tertiary category (personal mobility vehicles) for his entry, Truss3D, a customisable kick-scooter.

The mechatronics student hopes to make the design of the device “open source” so that the community would be able to design their own scooters by using a 3D printer at home. Each DIY scooter would cost about $300 to set up, Lam added.

Donald Koh, 38, a 3D design specialist at Pathlight School, oversaw a group of 25 students, aged 14 to 17, who took part in the competition.

The team from Pathlight – a school for high-functioning children with autism – took away the top prize in the Singapore School category (mobility devices for elderly) for The Pathcraft.

The 3D-printed wheelchair features a hoverboard as well as a shell-like shelter, two armrests with small storage spaces for loose change and two large compartments for other belongings.

Koh said the team took about three months to conceptualise and make the device. By using 3D printing, makers can individually tailor the design of the wheels, he added.

The school is looking to find partners and test out the device at an old folks’ homes.

“We could use it as a platform for incoming students to make improvements on the design and to think of further ways to help elderly people to move around in Singapore,” Koh said.

Lee Khim Yong, 42, who designed ErGoWalker, took the top prize in the Singapore Tertiary Category (mobility devices for elderly) together with a team of five TP students.

Created by using 3D-printing with nylon, the device features a seat for resting as well as a curved handle for easy turning.

“We tried to keep it stylishly designed and lightweight….It is about 50 per cent lighter (compared to its commercial counterparts),” said the senior mechatronics lecturer at TP.

To be held from 14 to 17 May, the third edition of Pro-AM 2018 is expected to be attended by over 150 industry players and academia from over 20 countries.

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