The Layer design consultancy wants to transform the wheelchair with a new 3D-printed product that can be personally customised to fit the needs of each user. The GO Wheelchair is a collaboration between Layer and 3D-printing company Materialise, and has been created as a result of Layer’s new research lab LayerLAB, which carried out a six-month research period on the device alongside wheelchair users and medical professionals. The idea is to remove the stigma from wheelchairs as purely medical devices, and redesign it as an every day object, which also reduces potential injuries suffered by wheelchair users and increases comfort, flexibility and support.
“We’re interested in understanding how people use and misuse the most important tools in their lives”
The GO has two made-to-measure, customised components; the seat and the foot-bay, whilst all other elements are more basic, but have been redesigned with the aim of reducing pain and increasing ease of use. To create the two customised parts, the user’s biometric information is collected via body mapping software, then translated into 3D digital data, which is used to design bespoke parts that fit the user’s body perfectly. This includes assessing the user’s weight, to work out the best centre of gravity for the seat, and assessing leg length and foot shape, to design the foot-bay. The seat is printed from resin with TPU plastic for shock absorption, while the foot-bay is made from titanium with an anti-slip surface.
Other features of the wheelchair include a lightweight titanium frame, wheels that require less power to push further, and accompanying GO Gloves which lock into push rims on the wheels to make it easier for users to propel themselves. These features aim to reduce risk of injury and risk of conditions like arthritis in the shoulders. One of the main concerns raised by wheelchair users who took part in the research process behind the device was the strain and difficulty of self-propelling, particularly in wet conditions. In response to this, Layer developed lightweight carbon-fibre spokes to fit inside the chair's wheels and has developed a wheel surface that is designed to lock into the custom-made gloves.
“3D printing for manufacture is the most appropriate and powerful technology available to capture each individual's unique body shape to enhance form and format”
Layer has also designed a consumer app to go alongside the product, where users can input into the design process by specifying things such as optional features and colours. This includes transfer bars, to help users in and out of the chair, push bars, to assist movement and wheel guards, to protect users from wheels. Users can also place orders via the app. The GO Wheelchair will be launched at 155 Clerkenwell during Clerkenwell Design Week on 24 – 26 May. A price is yet to be announced, but it's been stated by the consultancy that once the wheelchair has been designed and ordered via the app, it could be delivered in under two weeks.
In related news, Benjamin Hubert, the Director and Founder of Layer, will keynote this years Product Design and Innovation conference in London on May 19 at 9.05am. Hubert will share the studio's approach and a selection of projects under this year’s theme; “Design thinking for now and beyond.” The keynote speech will also provide the framework for the soft launch of GO ahead of the official launch the following week.