Wheelchair users confront a host of obstacles when negotiating urban settings, from circuitous routes of passage to uneven terrain. But there’s a bright spot on the technology landscape: British design studio Layer and Belgium-based printing innovator Materialise have teamed up to create the world’s first fully customizable 3D-printed wheelchair.
The GO wheelchair, a prototype of which debuted at London’s Clerkenwell Design Week in May, aims to facilitate mobility by becoming a bespoke extension of the user’s body. Since design complexity is not a cost driver in 3D-printing, Philip Hudson, Materialise UK’s managing director, believes there’s "design freedom" in using the technique. "It paves the way for more customized designs to be brought to life, whether they are customized to the user, such as 3D-printed insoles and patient-specific prosthetic devices, or to the surroundings—for example, with different design facets to make a wheelchair better suited to specific terrains."