Rove Concepts reinvents the wheelchair with advanced manufacturing

Image credit: Rove Concepts

Australian design engineer Rove Concepts will deliver a breakthrough in tailor-ability and comfort for wheelchair users this month at the ATSA Independent Living Expo, under a co-funded grant from Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC). 

The pre-production prototype of this wheelchair uses 3D printed titanium and carbon fibre to deliver superior levels of comfort, weight savings and overall performance. 

Co-founder of Rove Concepts Ryan Tilley said the invention aims to bring a high-level of chair quality to the masses, rather than to just elite athletes

“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 co-founder and father of a wheelchair user, Keith Klein. 

“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,” he said. 

Supported by the $180,000 federal government grant, participants include Rove Concepts, wheelchair and assistive technology specialist Adaptive Concepts, Australian National University’s material testing and validation experts and bespoke road bike maker Bastion Cycles. 

Managing director at AMGC Dr Jens Goennemann said, “Rove, collaborating with Bastion, has opened up a unique way of manufacturing wheelchair frames. 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.” 

The wheelchair uses carbon fibre tubing, 3D printed lugs and other aero-space materials to achieve strength benefit and weight savings of close to 4kg per chair – an improvement from traditional welded tube frames of steel of aluminium alloy. This means a customer can receive their wheelchair within four weeks, rather than the typical 12-week order cycle, as well as customise their order. 

“By changing the angle of lugs and the length of the tube you can create a completely custom geometry,” explains Tilley. “It is post-production customisable as well. The feedback from our users and our occupational therapists is that this is a massive boon.” 

Goennemann agrees: “Manufacturing, here as in other countless examples, can improve the lives of many – simply by listening and delivering smart products to a global audience. There are an estimated 75 million-plus wheelchair users, globally. The impact of Australian ingenuity to make a difference is immense.” 

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