Australian innovator to unveil customisable, lightweight wheelchair

Rove Concepts has completed the first pre-production prototype of a new wheelchair which uses 3D printed titanium lugs and carbon fibre tubes to deliver weight savings and superior performance.

“We aim to bring a high-level of chair quality to the masses, rather than to just elite athletes,” said Ryan Tilley, co-founder of Rove.

Tilley is an award winning design engineer and co-founder of Gecko Traxx. Gecko’s foldable over-tyre invention — allowing off-road wheelchair use — earned him awards including the Australian James Dyson Award and a Good Design Award in 2019. 

“Having the lightest setup and ergonomics for a wheelchair from the outset is critical. Get it wrong and users will suffer from pressure sores, muscle pain and shoulder wear if the chair isn’t perfect, added Keith Klein, Co-Founder at Rove and the father of a wheelchair user.

“Users push themselves around for as many as 12 hours a day, day after day, week, month, year and decade. If you can lighten the load, it’s an incredible benefit.”

Development is being supported by a $180,000 federal government grant administered by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre. The project links Rove with collaborators Adaptive Concepts (a wheelchair and assistive technology specialist), Australian National University’s material testing and validation experts, and bespoke road bike maker Bastion Cycles.

“Australian manufacturers like Rove are realising that ‘traditional’ sectors and products are ripe for disruption. Enabled by incredible design and engineering talent, Rove is setting a new standard in delivering to market an exceptional product and service – which can go global,” explained Dr Jens Goennemann, Managing Director, AMGC. 

“In this case, Rove, collaborating with Bastion, has opened up a unique way of manufacturing wheelchair frames. By bringing them together has been a powerful thing. It is exciting to see Bastion’s knowledge of lightweight 3D printed lugs, previously applied to bikes, find a place in a new product, and one with incredible promise.”

Bastion is best known for its high-end bicycles, which use thin-walled lattice additively manufactured structures to save weight and boost performance.

The novel materials and design provide strength benefits and weight savings close to 4 kilograms per wheelchair versus traditional-type welded tube frames of steel or aluminium alloy. There is also an estimated delivery time of four weeks for a customer versus 12, and a much higher level of customisability.

Rove plans to unveil a production model of the wheelchair at the 2021 ATSA Independent Living Expo next week.

Pictures: supplied

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