Go: a wheelchair prototype by Benjamin Hubert & Materialise
The world’s first made-to-measure 3D-printed wheelchair is launched
British designer Benjamin Hubert has presented a customised, lightweight wheelchair called ‘Go’ at Clerkenwell Design Week, on the occasion of the event’s opening. The project is a result of a two-year collaboration with Belgian company Materialise, world leaders in 3D-printed software and solutions.
“This project didn’t start-out as a 3D printing project – the challenge was rather to develop a wheelchair of better quality than the existing ones, and for it to reflect the personality and taste of each individual user”, says Benjamin Hubert, who developed Go with his experience-design agency Layer. “We wanted to get away from those mechanical, medical, stigmatised things. How to improve a wheelchair as an object, this was our question.”
“In our opinion, it’s a designer’s responsibility to use his or her skills to enhance people’s lives. The trigger for me was seeing wheelchair users on a daily basis and hearing about the challenges of their particular condition – I have heard horrible stories about discomfort and injuries, and it was clear that a good wheelchair would greatly improve matters.”
In order to find out the needs, desires, and frustrations of wheelchair users, Hubert listened to the people using them and also consulted medical professionals. “We wanted to give users the opportunity to select the patterns and features that fit their life.” Thus, Hubert was able to translate their stories and wishes into insights, in order to transform the wheelchair as we know it. “Eventually, 3D printing proved to offer great solutions to suit body shapes as well as improve the aesthetics: the technology guarantees that the different parts of the chair accurately match the user’s body form and disability, and this therefore reduces injury and increases comfort, flexibility, and support.” The result is Go: a tool that improves the wheelchair user’s quality of life.
The Go being presented here in London is a prototype, ready for production and for the market. “Go can be manufactured and delivered in under two weeks.” A remaining issue might be the price…? “The price of 3D printing is coming down month by month, since more people are now doing it”, ensures Hubert, adding that Layer is looking for a partner to produce Go for an affordable price. Layer has also designed an app that will allow users to participate in the design process by specifying optional elements and colourways, answering a wider set of requirements and desires. Once the wheelchair has been designed, the order can simply be placed via the Go app.