We always love working on projects with students – the energy and fresh ideas they bring to the table make these sorts of projects extremely rewarding! One such project was the MARCH II, a student initiative from the Delft University of Technology. The aim of MARCH II is to create an assistive exoskeleton for paraplegics that would enable the wearer to walk.
Materialise worked on the covers and backpack of the MARCH II in particular. Besides looking awesome, these components protect the electronics attached to the outside of the exoskeleton. “The brain and power source of the exoskeleton are placed in the backpack,” the Project MARCH team explained. “Custom electronics optimize the system in terms of dimensions and functionality. The 3D-printed covers are attached to the frame, housing the electronics, and they carry the loads applied when the pilot enters the exoskeleton.”
First, the students at TU Delft benefitted from the consultancy of Pezy Group about the design and function of the backpack. Together, they optimized the design to make it as strong and stiff as possible before coming up with a final concept that answered each need.
The students of Project March | Image courtesy of Project March
It was during the production phase that the students turned to us for help. Precision, material properties and aesthetic appeal were all important factors we had to keep in mind. We had to ensure that the tolerances of each separate part were good enough so that they could come together and fit perfectly as a whole. Choosing the right material was another important issue – we needed to pick something which would provide the necessary stiffness and sturdiness. And finally, it had to look good and add a dimension of aesthetic appeal.
Our engineering team worked closely together with the MARCH II team to get the most out of the design – we provided internal structures using Materialise Magics to optimize the strength of the parts, with a minimum amount of material. Sales Engineer Gertjan Brienen was able to provide advice about which 3D printing technology and material to use, and finally HP’s new Multi Jet Fusion technology was decided on due to its ability to provide a high surface quality and a high degree of dimensional accuracy.
We also optimized the backpack by redesigning it with a honeycomb structure. This enabled us to use less material, making it lighter and more comfortable for the wearer, but keep the same structural integrity and strength of the previous design. The students at MARCH II were very satisfied with the end result, saying
“We were really able to benefit from Materialise’s advice and years of expertise in 3D Printing, and we love the smooth, premium quality of the final prints. We’re convinced that our 3D-printed covers and backpack make the MARCH II exoskeleton complete!”