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Ian Patterson Describes His Disability as… Interesting

Ian Patterson concentrated on the 3D printer that had recently plugged up. He had his wheelchair positioned so that he could stand upright on one leg and use the arm for his residual right knee… and appeared not to notice it. At that moment, I knew this interview would be special.

The past couple of years have been rough on Ian. Two years ago he wound up with a wound that would not heal, a complication of his long-time diabetes.  Making a very long story short, the doctor amputated his leg. Many people would get disappointed or depressed by this type of scenario. Ian views it another way. He looks at the positive side because depression is “more effort than it’s worth.” Ian sees things as if they are new and interesting, and leads a lifestyle that is full of laughter.

That might be why Ian has “Freelancer” on his card.

“I choose the term, Freelancer, because I don’t have a job professionally,” said Ian. “My medical condition makes it hard for me to hold down any professional work. Frankly, I don’t always have enough energy to get out of bed on a consistent basis. I largely volunteer and help people out. Anytime someone has a problem, I’m interested in getting involved in solving it. There really isn’t a good job type title for that. Freelancer is broad, open, and it’s an interesting job title.”

A Wheelchair Battery Charges Phones

Ian also works on solving problems that he thinks are not unique to him. Not long ago he began working on a 3D printed attachment that would link up his Smartphone to the wheelchair’s battery.

“I looked at what was on the market for being able to charge your phone,” described Ian. “They offered separate battery packs that you had to carry around. Nobody had come up with the design that you could charge your phone off the wheelchair battery. That’s when I looked around my workshop. I saw the USB that I used to have in my car just sitting there. I wondered… would the USB work if I hooked it up to my wheelchair?”

“I knew there was a good chance that I could destroy the thing with power from the wheelchair’s battery. Since I wasn’t using it for anything, I gave it a shot. I got power from the wheelchair’s battery to my phone and I didn’t destroy the charger,” he laughed. “It works!”

Questions from Industry

So, it’s interesting that a Maker could do a 3D printed piece. But, what about the rest of us? In fact, 3D Printing Industry wants to know if Ian plans to commercialize the product. The answer is, “Yes and no.”

If you are a commercial distributor, you will have to pay Ian a royalty. But, he likes to support open source software and design. Ian plans to make a few more modifications so it will be easier to set up and print. Then, he’ll release the plans so that anyone can print the wheelchair phone charger for self-use. You have the satisfaction and pride of knowing you did a good job and made it for pennies on the dollar.

When asked by 3D Printing Industry if additive manufacturing (or 3D printing) made life more accessible, he grinned and said, “There has been some decent work by the medical community to customize wheelchairs, but they’ve largely been targeting purely medical needs. You have seats that elevate you so you can reach upper cabinets if you’ve got difficulty standing up. You’ve got wheelchairs that recline in different ways depending upon a number of different medical conditions that I don’t understand. The nice thing about this USB charger is that it goes beyond what’s medically necessary and deals with lifestyle.”

Driving to NOVA Labs

Believe it or not, Ian drives his wheelchair from the metro to NOVA Labs. He currently works on an umbrella stand that also holds a Bluetooth speaker and a tail light. He also plans to get a car horn working. Apparently, the wheelchair manufacturers apply a wimpy horn that does him no good when he is going to and from the lab. That is a major problem with SUV’s. He says that he knocks on a lot of back windows when they are backing up. The horn will give him a better chance to get noticed.

According to Bo Pollet Wernick, Events Coordinator at NOVA Labs, “His cover for rain is a coat that he modified to cover him and his chair like a car cover. It also works pretty well and keeps him and his stuff pretty dry over the trip, even in heavy rain. The few times I’ve seen him show up wet, he gets right to making modifications to improve it. He’s not always dry when he defies the weather, but he has yet to let a 3d printer get wet.”

Check Out NOVA Labs

When Ian started 3D printing, he made a printer of his own. He’s got a NOVA Labs i3 printer that cost $550 (less a $50 discount for members). He likes the kit because you get to put it together. You understand everything about how it’s constructed and if something ever breaks you know how to fix it. And… something always breaks.

Another way to try 3D printing is to go to a 3D Printer Fair. They hold them all over the world. I searched Google and there were 1.43 million mentions.

I would like to thank Ian Patterson, Bo Pollet Werniek, 3D Printing Industry, and Dave McGill for their participation. If you are thinking of going out and getting started on 3D printing, please visit NOVA Labs.

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