Consumer Products

IKEA Israel launches free 3D printable ThisAbles to improve furniture accessibility

While there are unlimited possibilities to the things you can make using a 3D printer, it has to be said that many aren’t always entirely practical. The same can also be said for everyday design. However, a new project from IKEA Israel challenges that.

ThisAbles is a new range of free-to download, 3D printable furniture upgrades for people with disabilities. Matching the simplistic style the Swedish furniture retailer is famous for, the collection improves the accessibility of some of its most popular products (and draws into question why some pieces aren’t made this way in the first place.)

The project is led by IKEA Israel in collaboration with non-profit organization Milbat that provides custom technology for people with disabilities, and Access Israel, a fellow non-profit and national advocate for accessibility and inclusion.

Improving accessibility around the home

The current ThisAbles range covers 13 different products for the living room, bedroom, bathroom and study. It includes the EASY HANDLE, which can be used to improve wardrobe and cupboard doors; the MEGA SWITCH, for augmenting tiny switches on IKEA lamps; and CANE BY ME attachments, which can be used to store walking sticks within immediate reach of the bed.

All products are designed to be 3D printed in PLA and the majority are uncomplicated, made of just one or two parts. Some objects that do require a little more assembly include INSIDER, a shelf clip that can be used to see contents from a low angle of view. This piece must be completed by the addition of a mirror. Furthermore, underneath each object, the site provides a list of all the furniture compatible with the piece. Some products, like the CURTAIN GRIPPER and FRIENDLY ZIPPER, are relatively universal too.

Insider improves the visibility of objects on a shelf. Clip via IKEA Israel
INSIDER improves the visibility of objects on high shelves. Clip via IKEA Israel

In addition to the 13 ThisAbles currently available through the project, the collaborators allow people to submit their ideas and problems for development of new accessible solutions. The site also lists all the pieces of furniture from the current IKEA catalog that are readily accessible without the need of hacks, e.g. chairs and sofas that are raised a little higher from the ground; kitchen utensils that can be used with one hand; storage boxes for the shower.

It’s a good start

Though ThisAbles is currently a regional project requiring some Google translate for assembly of the pieces, it has to be said that the online campaign is already quite accessible in itself. ThisAbles models are available to download anywhere in the the world and therefore (theoretically) are 3D printable anywhere too. Bypassing some of the need for translation, IKEA Israel have also posted a series of clips on YouTube demonstrating how to apply the furniture upgrades.

Pavel demonstrates the Snap Cup attachment for MALMO beds. Image via IKEA Israel
Pavel demonstrates the Snap Cup attachment for MALMO beds. Image via IKEA Israel

Going forward, it would be tremendous to see this effort taken up by the company on an international scale, even introducing 3D printers to its stores for on-demand production to people as they need it. As stated in the project’s FAQs:

“The spirit of IKEA’s global vision is to improve the quality of life for as many people as possible, and this is true for people with disabilities who make up about 10% of the world’s population. We realized that we must act in order that these people will also be able to enjoy the quality of life provided by IKEA products […]”

Globally, IKEA is one of the largest consumer products companies looking to 3D printing for innovation. It’s prior efforts with the technology include a range of wall-fitting ornamental hands and an ergonomic chair for gamers.

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Featured image shows some of the accessibility-improving furniture upgrades in the ThisAbles range. Image via IKEA Israel