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Digitally Fabricated Cup Holder: concept, need and tools. A case study by Nepal Communitere

Designed for that demography having difficulties in hand mobilization or no hands to drink.
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A cup holder, taken from the open source platform Careables, is for people who can’t reach their cup to grab it with their hands. The device is designed to be adjustable considering comfort for the neck. This is important for the user to drink liquid with no effort. A straw could be added and fixed to the device. Holding a cup is fixed into a position giving access to people with a hand or arm disability to drink out of a cup. This Solution is much needed to people with no limbs, to quench his/her thirst when he/she needs it.

The concept of the product is just derived from thinking of the human body’s primary movements to ease our daily life. Classifying the movement to find how much of a big deal is the movement and difficulties created by not being able to create movement landed us with this exciting idea of building part of a solution to people with no limb or unable to use limb effectively.

The need

It carries a lot of importance for needful people to ease drinking procedures. Although the underprivileged are suffering with a lot of difficulties as they are not blessed with things we take for granted. In this situation, it is crucial to come up with at least any effort that not only makes life easier but also pave a long pathway to be walked to make life easier for those needing it. Among some of the  primary activities of people, people who are not able to use their hands properly, have to face difficulties to quench their thirst. Normal people might not realize these things but the one who is suffering with it accepts the difficulty to make it a lifestyle. 

The inability to use the hand is mainly because of muscular disorder, joint weakness or neural disorder. Ataxia is a neurological sign consisting of lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements that can include gait abnormality, speech changes, and abnormalities in eye movements. People with such difficulty cannot grab things and end up with no other choice but to depend upon others. In the absence of their caregiver, they have a very hard time doing hand activity and cope with thirst silently. Many, with these disorders, have come up with the solution of using their legs. Still, they have to face difficulties handling liquids. This product, to be specific, is made for that demography having difficulties in hand mobilization or no hands to drink. It is also useful to patients with spinal injuries or problems. 


  • Computer Aided Design
  • Digital fabrication (3D Printer)
  • Human Centered Design

The process

1. Inspiration phase

The process began with some Google surfs. During that a lot of brainstorming sessions were held in groups where the life without primary movements were empathized. Open source was the priority to test ideas to the problem. Among a lot of products present in the different open source platforms, top priority was given to the one fulfilling the primary need first which was found in an open source website of Careables.

2. Idea screening

Target group and idea was identified. The diversity for use of the product was discussed. The decision for the selection of the product was done naming the product ‘cup holder’ for this project. The main source of inspiration was the urge to help the people in need.

3. Product prototyping

The CAD files found in open source i.e. were operated for prototyping using 3D printers at Nepal Communitere. Along with that some questionnaires to be asked to the caregiver and the patient were prepared.

4. Empathy phase

Though the open source might have been tested in other parts of the world, the reaction for the product was unknown in Nepal. Hence, the empathy phase was needed for testing the prototype. The prototype was taken to Special Child School, Purano Sinamangal, Kathmandu where students with autism were present. The students with autism and caregiver of the school were interviewed.

Disability Rehabilitation Centre, Gokarneswor where 11 children not able to use their hands were interviewed. Many questions were asked to get as much from their situation and their point of view. The same questions were asked with the product allowing them to use the product as much as they want so that they can get on with the product and provide us with some meaningful feedback.

Question that we asked as a part of empathy.

(To the care-giver)

  • What do you think are the problems the children with hand problems are facing in your place with drinking?
  • Were any solutions brought as a part of the solution to it?
  • What do you wish to have to prevent your as well as the children’s waste of time?
  • How are you dealing with drinking right now as a care-giver?

(Let them use the prototype and make children familiar with the product)

  • How does it feel?
  • How does the child feel?
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how did it change the child’s behavior?
  • What did you like about it?
  • What flaws did you see? How could it be better?
  • What would an ideal solution look like for this problem for you?

First phase interview with the open source product

S.N. Places visited No. of interviews conducted
caregiver user
1 Special Child Care 1 1
2 Disabled Rehabilitation Center 3 10
Total 15
Table 1 Interview numbers for empathy and prototype test


5. Insights of the product

The insights collected from the empathy phase are:

  • The rehabilitation center contained a lot of children having problems with hand trying it’s best to provide the best services for all of them.
  • The place had been working in the sector for a long time ( approximately more than 2 decades)
  • A lot of gadgets were seen there making a lot of things easier for them but the work for making drinking was not initiated yet. So, the product was admired.
  • The users were fully being dependent upon the others for a single drop of water. The scenario would be more difficult during meal-times(especially if they, for some reasons were, left out to eat alone).
  • The ones with hand’s problems were also really taken down by the fact that they needed to depend upon others for such a basic thing.
  • They also were emotionally being disturbed by themselves, as a result they had a low tendency of water consumption compared to people with other disabilities there. They had also encountered a so-called general problem of dehydration.
  • The initial product was a bit difficult to handle and many other problems were floating up to be clear as the child started using it. 

Key insights were listed from team discussion:

  • Knob (circular and square)
  • Straw holder (direct to the deepest part of the cup)
  • Base (heavy and joint)

Easy adjustment (single knob).

6. Iteration

From the collected insights, the cup holder was iterated considering most of the insights gained in first product testing and the collected feedback.


Fig: Iterated product


  • Adjustable height
  • Portable in design
  • Easy assembly and intuitive
  • Easy to handle 

Some main users include

  • The one with no hands
  • People attacked by paralysis and stroke
  • One with ataxia
  • The caretaking centers like Disability Rehabilitation Center
  • Parents/ guardians/caretakers of the one mentioned above
  • People with syndrome related with neural disorder
  • One suffering from bone problems like arthritis.

Second phase interview with the iterated product

S.N. Places visited No. of interviews conducted
caregiver user
1 Special Child Care 3 10
Total 13
Table 2 Interview numbers for iterated product test



  • User having no hands, was enjoying the product as it was more stable now and the product came up with a good limitation in the angle that it would be able to be tilted.
  • The mechanism that would make it easier to use i.e. adjustability by single knob was still not prepared. Thus, the input of mechanism would enhance the product to the fullest.
  • The fact that the fillets were still must on the surfaces to be contacted highly and directly was realized.
  • There was a hope for them that they won’t be dependent upon others for the basic thing of drinking water.
  • The care-takers too were a bit concerned by the fact that the problem was big and the reason behind it being overshadowed was that it was being faced by the innocent and voiceless ones.


Overall the project was something from which a lot of things can be learned. It shows how a small approach and a product can affect the lifestyle of the people in need. It also showed how normal people don’t realize the gravity of the situation like the one in the project. Some knowledge in Computer Aided Design, digital manufacturing and design thinking (Human Centered Design) can surely make a change if used for good. Finally, the product has the possibility to be seen as the part of lifestyle if the mentioned modifications were made.


Nepal Communitere


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