Methodology and feasibility of a 3D printed assistive technology intervention

Jaclyn K. Schwartz, Angelica Fermin, Kimberly Fine, Nathalie Iglesias, Danika Pivarnik, Stephanie Struck, Natalie Varela, William E. Janes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Three-dimensional (3D) printing now allows rehabilitation professionals to design and manufacture assistive technologies in a few hours. However, there is limited guidance for researchers and clinicians for implementing 3D printing assistive technology interventions and measuring their outcomes. The goal of this study was to develop a standardized 3D printing assistive technology intervention and a research methodology, using pillboxes as an example. Fourteen pillbox users engaged in a study comparing their use of an off-the-shelf pillbox to a customized 3D printed pillbox. Study outcomes were evaluated on feasibility (recruitment capability, study procedures and outcome measures, acceptability of the study procedures, the research team’s ability to manage and implement the study, and the participant’s preliminary response to intervention). Participant outcomes were measured on satisfaction with the device and medication adherence. Fourteen participants completed the study and received customized 3D printed pillboxes. The study design performed well on all aspects of feasibility except the research team’s ability to manage and implement the study, as they experienced several technical issues. Notably, the participants reported improved device satisfaction and medication adherence with the 3D printed device with large effect sizes. The 3D printed assistive technology intervention is a replicable process that supports professionals in printing their own assistive technologies. Recommendations are made to further enhance feasibility of 3D printing assistive technology studies. Future research is warranted.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION 3D printing is an increasingly feasible approach allowing for the design and manufacture of customized assistive technology Evaluation for assistive technology that will be 3D printed should include information about the person’s activities, routines, skills, abilities, and preferences. Evaluation of outcomes should include satisfaction with the device and a functional measure. 3D printed assistive technology interventions should include the collaboration between the assistive technology professional and client. It should also include device training. Future 3D printing research studies should report pragmatic data including printing device, time to print, and number of errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-147
Number of pages7
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 17 2020


  • assistive technology
  • biomedical technology
  • equipment design
  • feasibility studies
  • medication adherence
  • research design
  • three-dimensional printing


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