When inventive minds tackle problems using 3D printing, the results can be impressive. In the past we’ve written about affordable 3D printed bionic arms for children, 3D printed superhero prosthetics, and a 3D printed prosthetic leg with a fin that helps amputees swim. While we also cover medically mind-blowing applications such as 3D printed organs and living skin with with blood vessels, inventions such as a recently showcased mechanical rehab tool for stroke patients are equally inspiring.

Janet Choi, a multi-talented designer, programmer, teacher, and University of the Arts London (UAL) Masters of Arts graduate, developed REHAP as a design project. REHAP is a 3D printed mono-material assistive and strengthening tool designed to helps stroke patients regain function in their effected arm. REHAP consists of three components: one for each arm and a central unit that connects the two. The devices each have mechanical gears with spiral springs. The gears connect with thin belts or bands. According to a UAL student project showcase, Choi created the gear system with three different color-coded flexibility levels so patients or therapists can switch gears for greater resistance as the patients get stronger. The mechanical device is powered completely by the wearer; there are no batteries or motors involved.

The video Choi submitted with her project shows how a patient can use the REHAP for strengthening, to help move the effected arm, and to synchronize hand movement. When the patient performs a movement with their unaffected hand, the gear system mirrors the movement with the affected hand. This form of mirror training helps strengthen the affected hand while it moves the muscles appropriately to aid relearning.

REHAP is not a commercial product nor is it part of a commercial venture. REHAP is a design student project using 3D printing to a create low-cost modular device that a therapist or health aide can adjust to a patient’s rehab needs. Choi’s focus on solving a physical problem using 3D printing to create the necessary components demonstrates inventiveness in applying an empowering technology.