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Toyota Mobility Unlimited Challenge winner’s wheelchair innovation

Since the beginning of the year there have been several innovations in the designs of the wheelchair with the technology and design having not changed much for nearly four decades. Some of the progress in the area has come in the form of smaller, lighter and more compact designs.

At the end of 2020 a 3D printed wheelchair won the Mobility Unlimited Challenge, a global competition run by Toyota. The Scottish designer and entrepreneur Andrew Slorance designed it to overcome typical issues faced by wheelchair users that he himself has also experienced.

As part of his research Andrew looked at a Taiwanese medical study, which was carried out to discover the cause of wheelchair-related accidents over a 3-year period. Among the 95 participants, 52 (54.7%) reported at least 1 accident and 16 (16.8%) reported 2 or more accidents during the 3 years prior. A total of 74 accidents were categorized with tips and falls being most prevalent at 87.8% with accidental contact also noted at 6.8%. The Phoenix I looks to help solve the major issue of tipping/falling while still maintaining a high degree of movement and comfort.

The wheelchair uses smart sensors to detect if the user is leaning forward or backwards and adjusts its centre of gravity accordingly. It achieves this by moving the wheels to keep the user’s centre of gravity in line with the wheel’s, thus reducing the chances of tipping when over-reaching or grabbing a bag from the back of the chair.

The team of five at Phoenix Instinct, the design company behind the Phoenix i, used 3D printing to perfect the winning design, an ultra-lightweight manual wheelchair made from carbon fibre. The company, based in Forres, Scotland, will produce the Phoenix i in house to keep it cost-effective. The beauty of 3d printing is that as the technology advances it could be possible to print the wheelchair out of several different materials with the aim for it to cost between €4,600 and €5,800 and be on the market within two years.

For further information on the Taiwanese medical study follow the link, here;

For more information on the Phoenix i you can visit their website here;

If you need further information on how OHAC can assist you in the design and provision of accessible services, information and built environment, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team on (01) 415 12 85 or e-mail [email protected]