Bespoke entry-level Wheelchair Rugby chairs through Advanced Distributed Manufacturing

Wheelchair rugby is a critical sport for people with disabilities but in low-income countries, sports wheelchairs are very expensive, which prevents people from participating.

Start date               1st May 2023

End date                31st October 2023

PI                           Dr Timothy Whitehead (Aston University)

Co-Is                      Prof Deon De Beer (Central University of Technology, Free State, SA)

                               Dr George Torrens (Loughborough Design School, Loughborough Uni)

Partners                 SAFOD (South African Federation of Disabilities)

                               British Council Innovation for African Universities Network

Wheelchair rugby is a critical sport for people with disabilities to develop a sense of community, rehabilitate, and maintain an active lifestyle. However, in low-income countries, wheelchairs, especially sports chairs, are very expensive, which prevents people from participating in the sport. Current chairs are designed in several sizes, but often lack the bespoke customisation required for increased comfort and performance. In addition, high import costs prevent clubs from obtaining suitable chairs for different levels of competition.

To overcome these issues, a British Council project led by Dr Timothy Whitehead developed a concept for a bespoke wheelchair which could be made using Additive Manufacturing. The design proposed that recycled plastic could be used in the design of the chair which could be customised based on the user and the type of competition required. 

This project seeks to continue the work and develop a low-cost, bespoke customised wheelchair rugby chair made from recycled plastic waste. The project will explore the potential for advanced, distributed manufacturing in the design and enable bespoke chairs to be manufactured in situ, avoiding import costs. The initial design work has been completed. This proposal takes the concept through prototyping and testing to validate if it is possible to create effective bespoke wheelchair rugby chairs that can be locally manufactured.