How 3D Technology Helped Evolve the M+D Crutch

By 3D printing parts of the M+D Crutch, the team could speed up the development and testing process

When Max Younger first came up with his idea for a better crutch, he used items he could find around the house to build a prototype. That worked fine until he started to think about the product more seriously. “What if I’m onto something? What if I could bring this idea to life?”

Max turned to 3D computer modeling and printing to create a “photo-ready” prototype — meaning, you couldn’t actually use the product, but you could fully envision it. Back then, “3D printing wasn’t quite where it is now,” explained Liliana Younger, co-founder of Mobility+Designed. Within a few years, technology advanced, and the Youngers invested in a desktop 3D printer to build the first iterations of the M+D Crutch, piece by piece.

3D printing helped the Mobility+Designed team speed up the development process of the M+D crutch

Through trial and error and meticulous refinements, they transformed Max’s idea into a functional design. They cast the molds out of urethane for making the prototypes for initial user testing. The users lived with the rudimentary M+D Crutch prototypes for multiple weeks and provided feedback. “Lots of things didn’t make it into the final design, because we were able to proof them out of the picture,” Liliana said.

Mobility+Designed utilized professional CNC and 3D printing services to make the entire crutch using actual materials and eventually invested in their own 3D printer to refine the shape of the various components in the design. “It’s a way for us to quickly get feedback on each part of the design,” Liliana said of 3D printing, though the actual M+D Crutch is not produced by 3D printing.

“The material we make the crutch out of is very strong,” she said. “There isn’t a fast-enough and cost effective way to 3D print the material we use, yet.” Instead, to manufacture their crutch, Mobility+Designed uses injection molding (steel), which is much faster and can produce hundreds of thousands of parts. Still, the Youngers credit 3D printing for helping bring the M+D Crutch to life.

“3D printing allowed us to create enough units to get our crutch out and into users’ hands, not just us gut-checking with ourselves if we think our idea is going to work,” Liliana said. “Before 3D printing, it would have been an even longer amount of a time, because we would have had to make each one, by hand, the same way the first one was made. Replicating it would have been harder.”

Without 3D printing the design may have been hindered. 3D technology allowed the Youngers to create a unique, beautiful crutch that is much more freeing than the traditional, utilitarian options that cause pain and discomfort. In fact, Mobility+Designed is currently using 3D computer modeling and printing to develop new mobility aid products. Check back on the blog for details and updates!