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New 3-D Printed Invention Lets Wheelchair Users Drive Hands-Free

KT Crabb Photography
A new 3-D printed device from Limbitless Solutions helps quadriplegics navigate in a wheelchair.

Using 3-D printing, a non-profit organization at the University of Central Florida has developed a new, far cheaper alternative to the technology that allows quadriplegics to drive a wheelchair using their facial muscles. 

LimbitlessSolutionsis known for creating and giving away 3-D printed limbs for disabled children. Their new 3-D printed invention is a device that attaches to the driver’s temple allowing hands-free control of a wheelchair.

“Our goal is to get this technology in the hands of a wheelchair company or a veteran’s association so they can get the device to veterans en mass.” said Albert Manero, founder of Limbitless Solutions. “It takes community support-- it takes university and corporate support."

This story was produced by WMFE and Health News Florida, a reporting collaboration supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Charlie Merritt of Deltona, FL, who's quadriplegic, learned how to use the technology in about an hour and a half. He drove his wheelchair from the engineering building on the University of Central Florida's campus to the student union.

Clenching the left side of the jaw turns left, clenching the right side turns right. Biting down goes forward.

“Chewing gum is kinda out of the question when you’re using it,” Merritt said.

The device costs between $250 to $350. The technology isn’t new, but it is much cheaper than the system Merritt currently uses.

“Thousands of dollars less,” Merritt said. “You’re talking $300 for what they’re doing and $5,000 to $7,000 for the device I use currently.”