Our Projects

3D Printed Metal & Carbon Fibre Customised Wheelchair

Project description and overview:

Globally, there are 75+ million people that need or use a wheelchair according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).  In Australia alone, there are an estimated 175,000 people who require the use of a wheelchair. For an active, full-time wheelchair user, the fit and weight of a wheelchair are extremely critical for good health and wellbeing.

Getting a wheelchair fitted to each individual body is much like getting a pair of shoes fitted.  There is no one-size-fits-all.  A large ill-fitting wheelchair is like putting on a shoe that far too big and doing up the laces tight to fit.  It might be okay for a short time, but before long, it is going to be uncomfortable, and will certainly give you blisters, even causing long-term problems.  It is very similar to the fitment of wheelchairs, with an ill-fitting chair causing ongoing health issues, such as repetitive strain injury, premature shoulder wear or body pressure sores.

The benefits of custom-made wheelchairs are obvious, however, the manufacturing of wheelchairs in Australia faces several competitiveness issues:

  • Long ordering lead times
  • The measuring and scripting process to size a new wheelchair frame is very manual and subjective
  • The use of conventional butted and welded tubular materials and traditional manufacturing processes means that chairs are heavy and are typically not optimised or efficient when in use
  • Labour-intensive manufacturing processes

Rove Concepts has designed and developed a new wheelchair, using advanced manufacturing methods including 3D printed metal alloy lugs and carbon composite tube. This new design combined with a digital process reduces manufacturing time, enabling the production of a lightweight and stiffer wheelchair that is mass customised to the body type of each user.

This solution will provide the following benefits to customers; perfect fitment, fast lead times, modularity and repairability and improved measuring and scripting process. On completion of this project, Rove Concepts will achieve the following capabilities and competitive advantages:

  • Mass customisation of frames – the manufacturing process becomes more streamlined. The customised 3D printed lugs will significantly increase the rate of production and product quality while reducing associated costs and improving product affordability
  • Improved measuring and scripting process – the customers’ measurements are collected using an improved measuring process to allow all measurements to be captured in a process that is faster and more accurate than the traditional method of using a manual measurement
  • Lower labour cost – improvements in process and automation will minimise the amount of labour required for wheelchair build

This project will be a world-first in wheelchairs and assistive technology. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides funding for assistive technology including customised wheelchairs. While there have been 3D printing applications to seating for wheelchairs, these have not been commercialised, and metal 3D printing and topology optimisation for wheelchairs in this project will be a world-first.

EXPECTED IMPACT

  • Increased spending on R&D
  • Higher information and communication technology (ICT) intensity
  • Increased collaboration with other manufacturers
  • Higher relative salaries and wages
  • Increased levels of automation
  • Smarter inventory management
  • Higher trade intensity
  • Larger geographical reach

EXPECTED GROWTH

Rove Concepts has estimated sales of the new wheelchairs to be:

  • 2021 – $504,000 (60 units)
  • 2022 – $1,008,000 (120 units)
  • 2023 – $1,932,000 (230 units)
  • 2024 – $2,940,000 (350 units)

EXPECTED JOBS

The assembly and build of the wheelchair will all be done in-house by skilled people who are also living with a disability. The project will generate the following increase in employment:

  • Design Engineer
  • Junior Industrial Designer
  • Wheelchair Sales and Scripting
  • Bastion Cycles Industrial Design (part-time)
  • Bastion Cycles Design Engineer (part-time)

 

The project will generate the following increase in employment post project:

  • Design Engineer
  • Digital Marketer
  • Sales Representative
  • Wheelchair Mechanic
  • Admin/Customer Service
  • Dispatch and QC
  • Bastion Cycles Production Engineer (part-time)
  • Bastion Cycles Workshop Technician (part-time)
Contributions:

Government Funds: $180,000 | Industry: $180,000 | In-Kind: $90,000

Project Participants