FAB Lab developing assistive devices for PWDs

FAB Lab developing assistive devices for PWDs

With assistance from Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA), the Bhutan Stroke Foundation in collaboration with Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck’s Super Fab Lab, is developing an assistive device for people with disabilities (PWDs). The primary focus of this project is to create a caregiving device specifically tailored for individuals who have suffered strokes, utilizing 3D printing technology.

The introduction of this assistive device marks a significant milestone for Bhutan, as it showcases the growing potential of digital technology in aiding people with disabilities.

Dawa Tshering, the Executive Director (ED) of the Bhutan Stroke Foundation, said that the establishment of such a device is aimed at supporting the daily routines of people with disabilities through 3D-printed solutions.

Dawa added that currently it is in the prototype phase and that the development of this assistive device started only two years back. “The team is following a trial-and-error approach, collecting feedback from users, and refining the design based on actual needs rather than perceived requirements. The goal is to ensure that the final product is effective and widely accepted,” Dawa mentioned.

The 3D-printed assistive device offers customized support for individuals with strokes, addressing their specific requirements and challenges. Due to the diverse nature of stroke patients’ needs, each device is tailored to suit the individual, making it a personalized solution.

Despite the promise of this initiative, there are challenges associated with developing the device. The ED said, “As the development of assistive devices is in its early stages, there is a challenge in getting raw materials, and creativity itself is a challenge.”

“As the project progresses, I hope that this 21st-century assistive device will significantly enhance the quality of life for stroke patients and other individuals with disabilities in Bhutan,” the ED added.

There are about over 100 stroke patients registered with the Bhutan Stroke Foundation, and about one stroke patient per day is receiving care at the JDWNRH.

Through the development of stroke assistive devices, about 15–20 percent of stroke patients have been assisted, and the Bhutan Stroke Foundation is assisting patients for about nine hours a day.

“We don’t need a 3-D printer; we only need skills for the development and design, and printing we can do in the nearby Fab Lab, so we don’t need to have another Super Fab Lab for the printing,” he continued.

The 3D printer will also provide a future for entrepreneurs, generate income, and be sustainable. The ED said, “The only things that we import are filaments, which are now produced by the College for Science and Technology (CST), so we don’t have to purchase that too.”

The Bhutan Stroke Foundation is not engaged in medical equipment devices. “We are involved in rehab, and the good thing is that all the technical-related design has been done by Japan, and we are just replicating,” the ED added.

The Bhutan Stroke Foundation, in collaboration with the JICA new business idea pitch task force, showcased the colorful 3D-printed assistive devices at an event where they garnered significant interest from visitors, many of whom witnessed 3D printers in action for the first time.

The founder of Draktsho Vocational Training Centre for Special Children and Youth, Rigzin Pema Tshogyal said that 3D printing would also assist children with special needs. She said it would improve their lives.

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu