BMW is building wheelchairs for the Paralympics

The 2016 Paralympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil between Sept 7th to the 18th. BMW has announced that they will be building 6 custom racing wheelchairs to start, one for each member of the U.S. team.  This is quite unusual for a car company, even though BMW designed a two-man bobsled for the U.S. Olympic team to use in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.  The bobsled helped the U.S. overcome a 62-year medal drought at Sochi.  

The wheelchairs are being made by BMW's Designworks Group.

Each seat will be custom made for each racer, and the gloves to go with the wheelchairs will also be custom made from a 3D printer.  3D scanners are being used to custom fit these new chairs and gloves to each racer.  The chair will also be made out of carbon fiber which is a lot lighter and stronger than aluminum chairs. 

The Olympians will be able to test out just how fast these new chairs are, before they debut at the Rio Paralympics in September 2016.

The racers are anxious and excited to try the new piece of equipment.  Josh George, a former gold medalist in the 100 meters, seemed excited at the prospect of receiving it, but not only because it will help him with his craft.

“It’s the coolest-looking piece of equipment I’ve ever seen,” he said of the new design.

He also said, “If I’m pushing the BMW and other racers are pushing aluminum frames, I’m going to be able to go the same speed as them with less energy exerted,” George said. “That means at the end of a race, the last 5K, the last 10K, I’m going to have more in the tank than they are.” 

Layer's 3D Printed Wheelchair Design

Layer Go Wheelchair

Layer is the evolution of leading design agency Benjamin Hubert Ltd.  It is set to launch the world's first 3D printed consumer wheelchair during Clerkenwell Design Week at Clerkenwell-London on the 24th of May.  Layer has partnered with well known global brands such as Aesop, BMW, Braun, Cappellini, Herman Miller, Nike, Samsung, Panasonic, Oral-B, and Fritz Hansen to forge engaging, high-performance products that push the boundaries of possibility.  It can take up to 8 weeks to make a custom wheelchair, but Layer says they can do it in about two weeks.  The GO wheelchair prototype is the first project under Layer's new research division, LayerLAB, and has been created in collaboration with Materialise, world leaders in 3D-printed software and solutions. LayerLAB is a new inhouse division of Layer that facilitates experimentation and research into the future of physical and digital products.

The company has just made a prototype 3D-printed wheelchair, and it is designed to be more comfortable for its users.  The comfort comes from taking the user’s measurements and building a custom seat.  Materialise and Layer have been working on this wheelchair for the past six months, consulting with the patients and doctors to help create a wheelchair perfectly sculpted to suit the user’s body.

Specifically, there are 2 custom made pieces, the seat and the foot bay, which are built to accurately fit the user's body shape, weight and their disability.  The company maps the user's biometric information, ensuring that each chair is a good fit. The seat is printed from a semi-transparent resin combined with thermoplastic polyurethane for elasticity. Its exact placement is also adjusted based on the body mapping data, ensuring that the center of gravity is correct.  The geometry of the 3D-printed foot bay, which is constructed from titanium, is built to fit the user's leg length, sitting position and foot shape, and features an anti-slip finish.  The frame of the chair is built from titanium, with a simple design that cuts down the number of struts to a minimum, lowering the visual weight of the chair. The wheels are also lightweight, with carbon fiber spokes and molded push grip rims. The company will also make gloves designed specifically for the chair, featuring a surface that's designed to easily lock in to the push-grip rims, making it easier for users to self-propel.  Color selection and optional extras (transfer bars, push bars and wheel guards) are selected via an app designed by the company, through which the final order is placed.

There's no word yet on exactly how much the GO wheelchair will cost, or when the first units will ship. Expect to hear more when the product is launched later this month at the Clerkenwell Design Week in London.