News | 12 May 2015

Technology creating new lives


Two brothers in Melbourne are using technology to “re-enable” themselves – and helping others do the same.

Living by their mantra, it’s not people that are broken, it’s technology that’s broken, identical twins Chris and Nick Fryer have used 3D printing tools to create robots, drones, wheelchair support frames and computer aids.

Nick and Chris were both diagnosed with Duchenne strain of muscular dystrophy when they were eight.

Now 37, they are using home-made technological aids to enrich their lives.

“When I was little, my dad taught me how to make model air craft out of balsawood and glue, and my disability took that away from me, but now technology has given that ability back,” Nick told ABC radio.

“I can design things on my computer and print them out on my 3D printer and it’s fantastic.”

Small 3D printed finger devices fixed to the twins’ desk enable proper computer and mouse control, while fixtures on their wheelchairs aid muscle support.

“I wanted to adjust how I was sitting in my wheelchair so I designed the little piece to go in the side support bolts,” Nick said.

“We measured it up, designed something, 3D printed it and screwed it in and it’s great.”

A visit to a ‘makers group’ in Hawthorn inspired Chris and Nick to begin their own space for sharing technology and designs.

They began MESH – Melbourne Eastern Suburbs Hackers – an incorporated group for anyone interested in creating their own technology, with a focus on enabling people with disabilities.

MESH meets fortnightly at the Ringwood Trade Training Facility. People do not have to know anything about technology to go along.

“I think a lot (of people with disabilities) don’t even know this exists, and they don’t know what they can do,” Nick said.

“What we want to do is to enable people with disabilities to design and create things for themselves.

“In the past it was virtually impossible for someone like me to actually make something physical, but now with computers, computer-aided design and 3D printers it’s become relatively easy.

“With robotics and all the technology being developed, you can re-enable yourself.”

To find out more about Melbourne Eastern Suburbs Hackers go to

Join the conversation