3D printed parts improve usability of powered wheelchairs

Wheelchairs are a wonderful brainchild, though no one is quite sure when it was first invented. The first one on record was made for Phillip II of Spain in towards the end of the 1500s. Since then, incremental developments have been made but the basic design (except for specialised sports wheelchairs) remains the same. Other than motorised wheelchairs, which were introduced commercially after World War II to assist injured veterans to provide independence.

There remains a fundamental flaw in each of the self-powered and electric-powered wheelchair designs. For self-powered wheelchairs, if the person is not able to turn the large wheel manually, then another person would have to push it. The e-powered version would give them back their independence; however, for a paraplegic or someone suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, other than using mind control a technology which is still in its infancy, the fiddly joystick could prove inaccessible.

This is where Stephen Marshall steps in. He is a Senior Rehabilitation Engineer working in the NHS and he assesses patients with non-standard or bespoke requirements. For a wheelchair, this involves assessment, prescription and modification of wheelchairs, both self-powered and motorised. He mainly sees people with restricted movement, from a paraplegic, who is considered as an active user, to a person suffering from Motor Neurone Disease.

He explains: "People have an option to pay for extras to upgrade the equipment we supply. On one of these chairs, I noticed the cables protected by igus energy chain. I thought they would be just the ticket for managing all the cables on my movable TV mount at home." He's kept in contact with igus since.

For people who struggle to hold a Joystick, Marshall will commonly use a golf ball drilled out to fit the joystick shaft. When this has been too small, a tennis ball is used. Marshall explains: "This is generally too big for grabbing, and in the past we have drilled a hole in a billiard ball. With the advent of new joysticks, the push forces have been reduced and the joystick's ability to centre itself with such a weight has been challenged to such a point the chair continues driving once released. This, for many reasons, is not ideal."

Marshall, who also has a keen interest in 3D printing, asked his local fabrication laboratory to print a joystick modification a few years ago. He says: "It worked but proved a little too fragile for everyday use. When he was offered a free sample from igus, he thought he would have another go and it worked. Marshall adds: "Since the sample, I have just ordered another custom joystick through our contractor and may have a mounting solution later on to get printed."

In terms of benefits to using 3D printed joystick modifications, is the huge weight reduction - especially when a billiard ball-size piece is required. An additional benefit has been the ability to create a tactile finish on the parts, which provides a softer feel. Marshall concludes: "We hope to develop this area in the future, using different profiles and sizes to improve people's lives."

Follow the link for more information about the igus 3D printing service.

igus (UK) Ltd

51A Caswell Road

+44 (0)1604 677240



More applications
2 days ago
Contrinex celebrates its 50th anniversary
Fifty years ago this week, Contrinex was founded by Peter Heimlicher in Switzerland. What began as a one-man operation, is now a technology-leading, innovative global company, serving over 60 countries and employing more than 500 people worldwide, and is led by Peter’s daughter, CEO Annette Heimlicher.
2 days ago
A full programme to inspire, inform and entertain
Manufacturing and Engineering Week (Birmingham NEC, 8-9 June) will be a celebration of British engineering, a two-day festival of innovation that will showcase the very best that UK industry has to offer, while also providing knowledge, inspiration and a touch of entertainment.
2 days ago
Maxon’s Drive Technology Insight day is a great success
11th May 2022 saw Maxon’s first Drive Technology Insight day bring together the engineering community in the UK and Ireland.
3 days ago
Nord Drivesystems exhibits at ‘all about automation’ 2022
On 29 and 30 June 2022, Nord Drivesystems will present the DuoDrive geared motor, the energy-efficient IE5+ synchronous motor, the new decentralised NORDAC ON frequency inverter and the NORDAC PRO SK 500P control cabinet inverter, at ‘all about automation’.
3 days ago
TÜV Süd certifies Pilz product development as safe and secure
TÜV Süd has certified the development processes of Pilz in accordance with the international security standard IEC 62443-4-1. This addition to the existing functional safety management certification promises Pilz customers double security from now on.
3 days ago
Enclosures provide safety and ease of use for laser interlocks
Laser Support Services, which designs interlock systems, works with Spelsberg UK as its enclosure partner, based on the quality and flexibility of the housings.
4 days ago
Camozzi launches new UK short form catalogue
Camozzi Automation has launched its new UK short form catalogue, available both online and in hard copy format.
5 days ago
NSK roller guides increase uptime of blow moulding machines
A manufacturer of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles frequently had to replace the linear guides on its blow moulding machines. However, after switching to NSK’s RA series roller guides, there have been no failures for over a year, producing annual cost savings in maintenance, spare parts and downtime of €60,000.
5 days ago
Design your future at Design Engineering Expo 2022
With innovation at its core, Design Engineering Expo 2022 is the perfect place for forward thinking design engineering professionals to gain insight into new technologies, learn how to improve efficiencies and gain inspiration for ideas they can implement into their workplace, to put them ahead of their competitors and form part of their future strategy.
5 days ago
Tray handling system gently handles medical-use glass cartridges
Gerresheimer Medical Systems Division produces over one billion high quality, medical grade, glass cartridges every year and central to its new post-production inspection and packaging system is the IEF Werner varioSTACK CF (Clean Factory) tray palletiser.

Login / Sign up