Layer: GO wheelchair

Benjamin Hubert of experience design agency Layer has designed the world’s first 3D-printed consumer wheelchair, created in collaboration with Materialise.

Layer: GO wheelchair
Benjamin Hubert of experience design agency Layer has designed the world’s first 3D-printed consumer wheelchair.   

The GO wheelchair is the result of intensive research with dozens of wheelchair users and medical professionals conducted by Layer over a six-month insight gathering period. During this time, the studio investigated how to remove the stigma associated with wheelchairs as medical devices and instead create a more human-centered vehicle to improve the everyday lives of users.

Layer listened to wheelchair users’ wants and needs whilst consulting with medical professionals to translate those stories and frustrations into insights that could be used to transform the wheelchair as we know it. The GO wheelchair is made-to-measure, lightweight, and highly functional. It has been designed to fit the individual needs of a wide range of disabilities and users.

Layer, GO wheelchair sketch
Layer, GO wheelchair sketch

The design of the GO wheelchair comprises two made-to-measure elements – the seat and foot-bay – combined with a number of standard GO wheelchair components. Both of these customisable components are created using 3D-printing manufacturing technology so that they accurately fit the user’s body and disability to reduce injury and increase comfort, flexibility, and support.

The first step when creating a new GO wheelchair order is to body map the user’s biometric information and translate it to 3D digital data. This data drives the geometry of the user’s bespoke GO wheelchair so that it accurately fits their body shape, weight and disability.

Layer has also designed an app to accompany the wheelchair, which allows users to participate in the design process by specifying optional elements and colourways to fit a wider set of needs and desires. Once the wheelchair has been designed, users simply place the order via the GO app.

The wheelchair seat is 3D-printed in two materials – a semi-transparent resin with an integrated matrix of TPU that acts as shock-absorption. The TPE system is located in the sitting area and acts as a living hinge suspension system that improves ride comfort for the user.

Wheelchair users are seated for up to 18 hours each day and associated injuries and discomfort are commonplace. The made-to-measure seat of the wheelchair accurately fits a user’s form, helping to reduce pressure points and the issues they cause. The seat’s centre of gravity relative to the chairs wheelbase is also calculated in the body-mapping process, and the seat is manufactured to respond to the user’s weight and optimise performance.

Layer, GO wheelchair sketch
Layer, GO wheelchair sketch

The geometry of the 3D-printed titanium foot-bay, with integrated anti-slip surface texture, accurately reflects the user’s leg length, foot shape, and sitting position as determined by the body-mapping process.

The lightweight titanium frame has been designed to have a reduced number of struts. This puts the user and their needs first, minimising the visual weight of the wheelchair but still offering the necessary functionality.

The wheels of the wheelchair have lightweight carbon-fibre spokes and over-moulded high-grip push rims that, in combination with the GO gloves, deliver a higher power-to-push ratio, especially in wet conditions.

Layer, GO wheelchair sketch
Layer, GO wheelchair sketch

One of the primary concerns of wheelchair users who took part in the research conducted by the studio was the stress and strain involved in self-propelling.

The GO wheelchair has super tactile push rims with a surface designed to lock into the GO wheelchair glove system, also designed by Layer, to deliver greater power-to-push ratio. This unique system – the first of its kind – decreases the risk of injury and painful conditions common to wheelchair users, such as arthritis in the shoulders.

24 May 2016
Clerkenwell Design Week
GO wheelchair
Design: Benjamin Hubert / Layer
Manufacturer: Materialise

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