The 3D Printed Wheelchair: A New Level of Comfort?

3D printed wheelchair GO design sketch from Layer 

As a wheelchair user, you know most wheelchairs come as one size fits all. You do have a variety of options to customize the wheelchair, but chances are you still feel uncomfortable from time to time. The wheelchair industry and its users have been waiting for centuries for new technology to arrive that will make wheelchairs more customized to the individual user. The answer and technology you have been waiting for might have arrived in the form of 3D printed wheelchairs.

What is 3D Printing?

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, refers to the process used to synthesize a three-dimensional object. The 3D printer is similar to an industrial robot and is responsible for producing successive layers of material that form objects.

British industrial designer Benjamin Hubert is trying to change the one size fits all wheelchair into a customized version using 3D printing. Layer, Hubert’s agency, has experience in using 3D technology to map biometric information and create new designs. Layer has teamed up with Materialise, a 3D printing company that has worked to customizing wheelchair designs in about three weeks.

Layer has already won an Innovation by Design award for their wheelchair model that is known to express the user's individual style, decrease injuries, perform better and provide improved movement. However, the model isn’t commercially available to the public yet.

3D Printed Wheelchairs Offer a New Level of Comfort

While most wheelchair users have found inventive ways of customizing their one size fits all wheelchairs, 3D printing offers customized options that will increase their current comfort level. The 3D printing option is capable of catering to the disability of the user. This means the wheelchair can be created to provide a contoured fit to the user’s body. This will allow the user to have improved posture, comfort, and stability.

Layer has taken into consideration the thoughts, emotions, and opinions of wheelchair users. They have developed an app that allows the wheelchair user to participate in the customization process. This is very exciting for a wheelchair user since they are basically able to request specific requirements that will suit their specific physical needs as well as choose colors and patterns that will personalize the wheelchair.

Life will surely become easier for wheelchair users as they participate in designing and creating their own wheelchair. The option of 3D printing takes customization to an entirely new level that hasn’t been reached in the industry.

Layer has taken the process another step forward by conducting research in areas such as prototypes, design, materials, fabrication and more. The company has also designed prototypes to provide the user with the best center of gravity as possible.

Layer has partnered with BMW, Samsung, and Nike for future collaborations and development. Once the custom wheelchairs are available to the public they will certainly change the wheelchair industry. It will become a competitive market and force all wheelchair manufacturers to find new innovative ways to customize wheelchairs in the future.

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