Hands-free flashlight for forearm crutches

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A flashlight that mounts inside the handle of several brands/models of forearm-style (aka "Canadian") crutches. Just like headlights on a car, this allows the user to see where they are going in the dark without having to hold a flashlight -- something that's hard to do if your hands are already busy holding your crutches!

Hard requirements

More detail on each item can be found in this build log post.

  • Entirely self contained within the crutch handle
  • Rechargeable via USB
  • Does not need to be removed to be recharged
  • Water resistant
  • Single button operation
  • Capable of 100 lm at 60°
  • Capable of running for 30 minutes continuously


More detail on each item can be found in this build log post.

  • Physical confines
  • Users dexterity and adaptability
  • Water resistance
  • Heat

  • Design challenges

    Matthew Nielsen01/28/2020 at 23:53 0 comments

    Physical confines

    The available space in the handle of WalkEasy crutches is a cylinder of about 26mm by 120mm.

    That frontage will need to accommodate (at minimum) the LED optics, switch, and charging connector.

    Users dexterity and adaptability

    The controls must be rugged enough for daily use but still be usable for those with limited finger control.

    Water resistance

    People will use this in the rain, so it will need to have a basic level of water resistance.


    High-powered LEDs can create a lot of heat, even more so with the proscribed 100 lumen brightness requirement I have set. Combining the need for a heat sink with the need for water resistance will be an interesting challenge.

  • Design Goals

    Matthew Nielsen01/28/2020 at 23:40 0 comments

    Hard Requirements:

    These are the things that are absolutely necessary for this to be a usable product.

    Entirely self contained within the crutch handle

    The isn't meant to be a light that attaches to the crutches. It is meant to be, as much as possible, an integral part of the crutches that can be installed and forgotten about until needed.

    This means that all parts of the light must be contained in the handle cavity:

    • Optics
    • Emitter
    • Switch
    • Charging connector
    • Driver
    • Battery

    Obviously things like the optics and switch might protrude from the front a reasonable amount, but the vast majority of everything should be inside the handle.

    Rechargeable via USB

    An obvious choice, really, since you'll almost always been in arms-reach of a USB charger.

    There is still a choice to be made about the connector, Micro-USB vs USB-type-c vs Lightning, but they are almost all the same physical size so the final decision can come later.

    Does not need to be removed to be recharged

    Goes with the USB-charging option. This just means that the charging connector must be outward-facing so the batteries can be charged while installed.

    Water resistant

    Since this is meant to be installed and then left there, it needs to handle getting a little bit wet. We're looking for water resistance, not waterproofing. Rain, not submersion.

    That means the water resistance need to apply only to the exterior components: optics/led, charging connector, switch,  and a seal/gasket around the handle opening.

    For later versions it may be possible to have the entire unit be sealed with something like a conformal coating or a completely sealed housing. 

    This will be hard for the initial versions, so it may have to slide in the prototypes until later.

    Single button operation

    The target user may already have challenges with their finger dexterity, so the interface needs to be as simple as possible. Ideally, this means one button.

    Capable of 100 lm at 60°

    This is really a judgement call, based on most of the "consumer" flashlights I see having ~100lm at about 60 degrees.

    Capable of running for 30 minutes continuously

    People are going to be using these to commute, so they must handle decent work cycle.

    30 minutes is also a judgement call, and it's probably a bit high for average daily use, but I would prefer if it was over-specified than under.

    Depending on the emitter used, heat could be a concern. Couple the need for a heat sink with the need for water resistance and you have a unique challenge.

    Soft (future, optional) requirements:

    Things that would be nice for a v2.0 or a "plus" version, but not required for successful MVP.

    Can be used as a USB power bank

    Since you'll have a ruddy great rechargeable cell/battery anyway, why allow it to be used as a USB power bank too?

    Battery charge state indicators

    Would be nice to have discrete indicators to show the state of the battery. Of course, we have a big one already so there are options to just use some flash-pattern on that too.

    Multiple modes

    Adjustable brightness may be wanted and, as much as I don't like them, options for a flashing pattern may be of use to some people.

    Adjustable beam angle

    Everyone is not the same height and they won't use their crutches in the same way, so a way to adjust the beam able may be useful.

    Overheat protection

    Sense the temperature of the LED module and reduce the brightness if it gets too hot.

    Head-in-the-clouds features:

    Things that "would be really cool" but are probably too difficult or too niche to add.

    Automatically turn off if the light is on but movement has not been detected in a certain period of time

    With an accelerometer onboard, the driver could automatically detect of the light has been accidentally left on but is not in use. Ex: the crutch is on its side and no movement is detected for nnn time, automatically turn off light (or dim it?).

    Automatically adjusting beam angle

    Just like auto-leveling headlights in a car, make the beam angle adjustment be automatic. If you're going up a slope, the angle would be automatically...

    Read more »

  • Background and initial work

    Matthew Nielsen01/28/2020 at 22:55 0 comments

    The initial test of this idea was maybe two years ago -- so long ago that I was able to go to Radio Shack to buy some high(ish)-power PTH LEDs to test with:

    It was a simple design based on work I had already done with 3D-printable crutch-handle-caps, LEDs, and parts from my parts bin:

    I don't know the exact specs for the LEDs, but a page from Radio Shack's current web site is probably the same item: 7400mcd, 30 degrees, 30mA, 3.2v. Nothing amazing, but they did prove the concept.

    I didn't think about the idea again until a few weeks ago when I saw this xkcd comic:

    That got me to revive the idea, so that's why this project was started.

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