We have started to explore advances in technology which have the potential to transform the way we produce our revolutionary 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?

We will open two 3D printing workshops in Kenya and India.

We are well established in Kenya and India, and have strong relationships with our partner organisations. Opening two 3D printing workshops here will allow us to put our research into practice, providing disabled people with 3D printed wheelchair components in a more cost-effective, sustainable and tailored way.

We hope that our wheelchair workshops will be adopted by the Kenyan and Indian national governments as “hubs of excellence”, providing a blueprint for other assistive technology services.

This is a very exciting step forward but, our pilot wheelchair workshops are dependent on future funding. If

you are an individual or business who would like to get involved, please contact Joanna Hall on [email protected]

Our innovation showcased at the Global Disability Summit

Motivation is attending the first ever Global Disability Summit, co-hosted by the UK Government this July. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for live updates, or get in touch on 0117 966 0398 or [email protected] if you have any questions.