Alfred Gives Back With 3D Printing

May 25, 2023

Alfred’s a man of many talents. A long-time interior designer with experience in construction, he recently added 3D printing to his list of talents. And it’s all for a good cause.

Alfred in a wheelchair sitting in front of his 3D printer and LipSync casings he has printed. A sign for his business, "Accessible Places," hangs in the background.In 2016, Alfred had a stroke, affecting the whole right side of his body — he only has the use of his left hand. Since then, based on his own experiences with a disability and previous work experience, he started his own business, Accessible Places (new window), helping people with disabilities and seniors by assessing homes and buildings for accessibility.

Having been helped by Neil Squire in the past with assistive technology solutions to help him work, Alfred was looking for a way he could volunteer and give back.

A 3D printing demonstration at the Neil Squire Burnaby office had him sold, and he decided that he could try printing parts for the Makers Making Change (new window) program for devices that would go to people with disabilities. Having never used a 3D printer before, he was able to borrow a 3D printer and see if he liked it.

He was a quick study, and soon printed off hundreds of parts.

“Actually, it was very similar to what I was doing when I was working before I had my stroke,” Alfred says about 3D printing. “I’d been working with Coordinate Measuring Machines for probably 30 years, it was very similar to a printer, instead of printing we were measuring. We would measure the part, so it’s basically the same set-up, and same idea, and the software is very similar, so it was a good transition for me to do this, because it’s so familiar to me.”

Deciding he needed his own 3D printer, Alfred purchased a Prusa printer. Unable to build the printer himself because of his stroke, he called upon the Vancouver Hack Space (new window) for help. Steve, a long-time VHS member and 3D printing expert, answered the call and built the printer, fulfilling a goal of his to build a genuine Prusa printer.

Alfred showing off his prints to our Director of Innovation Chad

Since then, Alfred has kept busy. He’s printed well over 1,000 parts since getting his own printer — many for various Makers Making Change events including a ton of parts for switches and toys for #HackingForTheHolidays, many writing aids, and pretty much anything in between.

Volunteering this way works well for Alfred. He’ll print the batch of parts that the Makers Making Change team requests and they’ll pick them up when the parts are ready, saving Alfred from having to make the trip.

“It’s been a good compromise for me, because to do volunteer work, if it was just a one-off part and you’re just doing something for one person, then you have to put it all together and build it, and do the electrical and do the soldering, and then mail it off or send it, and that’s a much more difficult process for me, because I have difficulty going out,” he says. “And I’d be doing one every day, I’d be running back and forth to the post office everyday, and I just don’t have the energy to do that.”

“Alfred’s 3D printer must be one of the most used ones in Vancouver! He’s helped us build many devices for our partners and school build events. While students and volunteers have been great in building many of our assistive switches, they need the 3D printed parts to build the devices,” says Neil Squire Director of Innovation Chad Leaman. “When we pick up prints from Alfred, we know we’re getting great, reliable parts, and it helps us meet the growing demand for the program.”

For Alfred, the fact that his volunteering — much like his day job — helps other people with disabilities is the key to the whole operation.

“That’s very important, that’s what I was trying to do is be helpful and help other people that have disabilities, because obviously I’m one of them,” he shares.

“I feel sort of an obligation to help others.”

This post originally appeared on the Makers Making Change (new window) website.