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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Elderly And Disabled Assistive Technology Market To Surpass $26 Billion By 2024

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 285 million people are visually impaired worldwide. 70 million people need a wheelchair. Another 360 million people globally have moderate to profound hearing loss. Globally, more than 1 billion people need one or more assistive products.

The global elderly and disabled assistive devices market was valued at $14 billion in 2015 and is expected to surpass $26 billion by 2024, according to Coherent Market Insights. It is a sizable market with an incredibly diverse set of needs. Many products have to be customized which is why 3D printing is an ideal way to study and solve some of it.


Photo from MatterHackers Envision the Future Design Challeng

MatterHackers, one of the largest 3D printing retailers in the U.S., wants to put a big dent in those numbers by encouraging inspiring, low-cost or free, assistive device models that people can 3D print or build from some other material. Officially, the “Envision The Future Design Challenge” is to create educational tactile models and assistive devices for the blind and visually impaired.

WHO defines assistive technology as any product that helps maintain or improve an individual function. Hearing aids, wheelchairs, eyeglasses, prostheses, pill organizers, and memory aids are all examples of assistive devices or products. You do not have to go far in 3D printing circles to find solutions or at least potential ideas to solve these sorts of problems or issues -- and I have written about many of them -- from custom insoles (orthotics) to hearing aids to haptic feedback in a glove (one of my very first posts over 5 years ago).
With an aging global population and a rise in noncommunicable diseases, more than 2 billion people will need at least 1 assistive product by 2050, with many older people needing 2 or more, according to a WHO assistive device fact sheet.

With an aging global population and a rise in noncommunicable diseases, more than 2 billion people will need at least 1 assistive product by 2050, with many older people needing 2 or more, according to a WHO assistive device fact sheet.
One of the more famous assistive device designs, not part of the MatterHackers design challenge, comes from the e-NABLE Community: the “Iron Man” video tells the story of Robert Downey Jr. giving an Ironman prosthetic hand to a child. Awesome video. That design was developed by the UCF Armory (University of Central Florida), led by Albert Manero, the Limbitless Arm was e-NABLE’s first myoelectric design. The Limbitless Arm is licensed under the Creative Commons-Attribution-Non-Commercial license. Success stories like these inspire more people to realize how accessible 3D technology is making incremental and exponential improvements possible -- that you might have an idea that could change the world for you or someone else.

Given that so many people have a need for assistive devices and products across a wide range; 3D printing is one of the best ways to approach the problems. If you look at an organization like Enabling The Future, that crowdsources the making of 3D printable prosthetic hands, a design challenge can provide new ideas and solutions that might not otherwise make it to market. Plus, it spreads the word and inspires more people, design-minded people, to consider how they might approach this massive market need and opportunity.
Additional resources:

Briefly, because everyone wants to know about prizes when there's a challenge like the Envision The Future Design Challenge, there are two categories: Youth (under 18) and Adults (18 and over). Each category will have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners with prizes sponsored by LulzBot and MatterHackers. Youth grand prize is a Lulzbot Mini 3D Printer (don’t let the name fool you; it is a decent size printer). Adult grand prize is a Lulzbot TAZ 6 (larger print area than the Mini). Both grand prize categories also come with a MatterControl Touch T10 - 10.6" Standalone 3D Printer Controller – basically a tablet you can use to run a printer without needing a full computer. The challenge runs from March 202017 through May 8, 2017 and the full details are here.


Coherent Market Insights produced the Elderly and Disabled Assistive Devices - Evolving from Luxury to Necessity report; a summary is available here.