3D printing is emerging as a significant technology in healthcare with market expected to reach $2.3 billion globally by 2020, according to a report published by Allied MarketResearch. It is envisioned as a tool to plan and practice surgeries, train new doctors, create transplantable organs, build body parts, and develop and test new medical devices. With unique and personalized medical solutions being costly and time consuming to produce, 3D printing provide a cost-effective solution that both increase productivity and improves care.
The Sydney-based startup AbilityMate use 3D printing technology to make personalized devices for people with disability. According to the World Health Organization, only one in ten disabled people worldwide receive the equipment they need. AbilityMate is determined to change that statistic and help one person at a time with specialized devices.
The for-purpose company, founded by Johan du Plessis and Mel Fuller, create open source designs for assistive devices used by people with disabilities, such as specialized keyboards or joysticks, or prosthetic hands and arms. These are often created collaboratively in real time with those who will be using the products, allowing for rapid feedback and immediate manufacturing for testing and use.
AbilityMate is currently working with Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Ability First in Australia. Their approach is to work with these large organizations to target potential clients, and are working on developing an online distribution platform where they can scale and run their projects. They also hope to manufacture electric wheelchairs and exoskeletons for an affordable price in the future.
The collaboration with end-users and organizations give AbilityMate a unique understanding of both patient groups and individual needs. Their interesting and fresh for-purpose, open source strategy, make sure that devices can be printed locally, significantly reducing cost and manufacturing time. Their vision and motivation of making a positive impact is inspirational, and their patient-focused personalized approach should be studied and adopted by other healthcare organizations who want to succeed.
AbilityMate won the NDIS New World competition in 2015, a pitch competition aimed at discovering new technological solutions that will help revolutionize the lives of people with a disability. A funding round with The Vasudhara Foundation saw the startup raise $20,000, and they are set to go through the accelerator program Remarkable, a new tech accelerator focused on social innovation that helps people with disabilities.