Conscious design with an ergonomic value: GO wheelchair

Written by Eleonora Usseglio Prinsi

Week 24

The key of customization, a part from luxury tantrums, is the ability to adapt something according to a customer’s individual requirements. From this perspective 3D printing could be definitely considered the new frontier of customization. Prices relativity low, endless possibilities and flexibility of usable materials.

The first tailor-made 3D printed wheelchair has been designed for the first time for the UK basketball team in occasion of London 2012 Paralympics Games.
Developed by Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Institute alongside UK Sport, the seats were individually moulded to each player’s body. Participating athletes had 3D body scans to capture their movements and positions in their existing wheelchairs, then CAD technology was used to shape the outer layer of the seat to suit each individual player.
Four years later British designer Benjamin Hubert, founder of Layer, London based design agency, in collaboration with Materialise, company specialized in 3D-printed software and solutions, launch the first prototype of GO, 3D printed wheelchair.

Good design is innovative” said Dieter Rams in his ten principles for good design “innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself”.
GO wheelchair sums up the all the potentialities of 3D printing, delivering a product that truly respond to disabled people everyday needs, without forget the aesthetic value. The GO wheelchair comprises two 3D-printed made-to-measure elements – the seat and foot-bay – combined with a number of standard GO wheelchair components.
Mapping each user’s biometric information, GO wheelchair design follows the same principles of basketball players wheelchair, fitting accurately each individual’s body shape, weight and disability.
However Layer´s product allow to respond to a wider market and users´ needs, reducing the price and offering shorter manufacture and delivery time.

The GO wheelchair seat is 3D-printed in two materials – a semi-transparent resin with an integrated matrix of TPU that acts as shock-absorption. The TPU system is located in the sitting area and acts as a living hinge suspension system that improves ride comfort for the user.
As a result of intensive research with dozens of wheelchair users and medical professionals, GO wheelchair helps to reduce pressure points and the issues caused by extended use, up to 18 hours each day, and associated injuries and discomfort.

The foot-bay

The geometry of the 3D-printed titanium foot-bay, with integrated anti-slip surface texture, accurately reflects the user’s leg length, foot shape, and sitting position as determined by the body-mapping process” explained the director Benjamin Hubert “The lightweight titanium frame has been designed to have a reduced number of struts. This puts the user and their needs first, minimizing the visual weight of the wheelchair but still offering the necessary functionality”.

GO project includes the development of GO app, allowing users to take part in the design process and GO gloves, delivering a higher power-to-push ratio, especially in wet conditions.
The join venture between Layer and Materialise proposes a solution, that a part from the final result, becomes a great example of conscious design, responding and re-thinking an object, that is crucial in the daily life of many people, but often conceived just for its functionality forgetting the aesthetic and ergonomic value.