We're using advances in technology to transform the way we produce and provide our wheelchairs.

Our mass-produced wheelchairs have been a sector changing success for over 15 years, giving quality, durability and a tailored fit to disabled people across the developing world.  But in the last five years, there have been some important advances in technology and materials that we have started to explore. These advances have the potential to transform the way we design, manufacture and provide our revolutionary wheelchairs.

With support from Google.org, we have been researching the use of 3D printers to produce Postural Support Devices (PSDs) in developing countries. Over the last two years, we have piloted a small project in India where we have been printing PSD components and custom fitting them to individuals’ wheelchairs. Although every chair we provide at Motivation is already prescribed and fitted for each user, 3D printing gives us an opportunity to make wheelchairs even more personal.

The outside and inside of our "Google Pod", where wheelchair users can be assessed and measured, before 3D printing is carried out.

Alongside our expert therapist team, our designers have developed software systems that are intuitive to use and inexpensive to make. They allow us to accurately record and recreate our clients posture, using xyz co-ordinates, so that each piece of printed kit is more customised than we have ever achieved before.

As the price of 3D printers fall and their standard of production rises, we hope to do more so we can implement advances in PSD provision to more of our clinics.

What’s more, 3D printing will allow our services to become more sustainable.

A base-level 3D printer and inexpensive filament can be used not only to produce PSDs, but a whole host of other wheelchair spares and daily living aids like splints and crutches, which can be sold for extra income. So as well as improving our services for wheelchair users, 3D printing will enable our workshops to become more financially sustainable and robust.

All in all

In summary, 3D printing workshops will enable us to better tailor wheelchairs for every individual, and manufacture on demand and within close proximity of the user.

The role of the clinician will remain central to achieve the very best seating position for every user. Using 3D printing will give ownership of the projects to clinicians and other staff who fully understand the local environment and context, and put the user at the very heart of the whole process.

What next?

Having tested the technology in India, we have proven that 3D printing postural support devices in less resourced settings is viable and welcomed by the local communities that we work with. This has given us the impetus to test just how far we can use digital technologies to inform not just the design of new products but the wider system of wheelchair provision. Check out our Motivation InnovATe project to see how we are taking our initial learnings to the next level.    

Support Motivation

Our design innovation is dependent on future funding. If you are an individual or business who would like to support Motivation, please contact Joanna Hall.