Talk to Mouth Abuaysha and you’ll wonder how he finds the time to pursue extracurricular activities and interests. A third-year Computer Science student who admittedly wants to excel, he is regularly inundated with schoolwork. He’s also a research assistant at Western’s Brain and Mind Institute.
And in the few moments he can spare for himself, he is a 3D printing inventor, of sorts, looking to develop affordable and accessible products that could assist individuals with a wide array of physical limitations.
“I’m trying to come up with solutions for people who have physical impairments. Making a new knee cap could use 3D printing. The market has a big lack of this – solutions can be very expensive and most people who are disabled don’t have a big income,” said Abuaysha, who came to Western from Saudi Arabia as an international student in 2011.
“My idea is to come up with solutions that are cheap to market and accessible for people to use,” he continued, noting he sold his first car after coming to Canada, alongside other belongings, to be able to afford a 3D printer for his lab at home.
His ideas come from looking at a specific problem, then trying to come up with an innovative solution. For example, he created an arm brace that can mount a mobile phone to help individuals who aren’t able to speak. Using a mobile app, the individual can type in what they wish to convey and the phone can speak it out loud. The brace makes the phone accessible at all times for this purpose. The design for the brace can also double as a design for a cast replacement, he added.
Abuaysha has also developed a new way of 3D printing to print ‘fabric’ by using a PLA plastic, an affordable corn-based material. The ‘fabric’ he prints looks like a quilt of intricately connected pieces, collectively malleable in shape and form, and very durable. It has the potential for a variety of uses, he explained, and the algorithms he created for printing this material can be used to print ‘fabric’ made of metal or other substances. Depending on the material used for its construction, the ‘fabric’ could be used as reinforcement for structures, replacement of tissues or even as a protective shield for military or police officers, he added.
Using 3D printing for things like this makes a variety of solutions affordable and accessible, Abuaysha explained. The biggest investment is the printer itself – the materials used for printing are far less expensive than traditional materials used for similar purposes. For instance – the arm brace he designed could be printed with $20 worth of plastic. A cast or traditional brace costs much more.
“This is the thing I do right after school. People might relax or hang out, but I want to finish this,” Abuaysha said.
When he is done his Computer Science degree, he wants to apply for graduate school and is interested in biomedical engineering. With a background and experience in robotics and electronics, he plans to seize every opportunity he can to use technology as an accessible aide.