Machines made by leading 3D print manufacturer, Ultimaker GB, are currently being used in an innovative project by Motivation, to design and develop bespoke wheelchairs in Kenya. The disability and international development charity, Motivation, manufactures and provides high-quality wheelchairs, trikes and supportive seats for use in developing countries. The organisation brings together design, technology and clinical expertise, to develop game-changing programmes for disabled people. Ultimaker printers are at the heart of their latest innovation project: Motivation InnovATe.

We are all different shapes and sizes; we take part in different daily activities; we live, work, study and play in different environments. One size does not fit all. Motivation InnovATe explores a new design and provision system that uses Ultimaker 3D Printers to make specific parts for custom wheelchairs.

For the pilot phase of the project, Motivation has linked up with a local partner in Kenya, Bethany Kids, to train their technicians and clinicians in a specially created assessment, fitting and 3D printing workshop. Motivation designers provide guidance on the use of new wheelchair assessment tools, including a seating simulator, to determine user measurements and needs. Data is fed into an automated design programme, which stimulates the generative design of 3D printed parts for a custom wheelchair chassis and seating unit. The technicians have been taught how to assemble the newly printed ‘nodes’ using aluminum tubes. The result is a made-to-measure product that suits the needs,lifestyle and environment of its user.

The team at Motivation have created a clinically-informed and sustainable system. Local production will reduce the costs and time delays caused by international shipping to developing countries. The project recognises a need to empower wheelchair users to choose what they need and want from assistive technology, rather than being given a mass-produced wheelchair that may not suit their needs, lifestyle or preferences.

David Constantine, Founder Director of Motivation, comments: “One billion people in the world are currently in need of assistive technology – from wheelchairs to hearing aids. With this figure set to double by 2050, it’s vital that we find new ways to make and provide scalable solutions. Motivation InnovATe offers a new vision of wheelchair provision that puts technology, investment and skills back into the hands of local people.”

Jake Honeywill and Dominic Noble, Motivation Designers, comment: “We’ve been developing and testing the ideas behind Motivation InnovATe for some time, so it’s amazing to see the concept come to life with the team at Bethany Kids. They have picked up the digital assessment and 3D printing training really quickly and already produced the first samples using two Ultimaker machines. We’re looking forward to the next steps of the trial.”

Paul Croft, Director at Ultimaker GB and 3DGBIRE comments, “We are delighted to be part of this project, which clearly shows the viability of 3D printing within a real-world setting to make a tangible difference at an individual level that would otherwise not be affordable or achievable.”

Motivation InnovATe is part-funded with UK aid from the UK government through the AT2030 programme.