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Fun Innovations Friday: The Everyday Hero of Wheelchairs

Oct. 27, 2023
How digital manufacturing from Hubs supported an award-winning, modular, unique wheelchair from the German start-up PARAFREE.

For today's fun innovation, I wanted to shed light on a recent medical device that is changing the game for wheelchair users across the board. A German start-up, PARAFREE has developed a lightweight, modular wheelchair for everyday use as well as any athletic activities. Created by the designer Felix Lange—who originally came up with the idea as a thesis project in 2011—the chair is intended to enhance the mobility of individuals with paraplegia or limited leg functionality more so than current wheelchairs.

So what makes this wheelchair so special? Well, it's crafted from carbon composite materials, forming a unique shape that looks more sleek and modern along with a sturdy structure that features smooth, high-tolerance parts for extremely easy assembly and disassembly while still ensuring great strength and durability. The real star of the show though is its metal parts that make its modular design work so perfectly for users, enabling them to tailor their chair to their requirements.

“PARAFREE incorporates aesthetically sophisticated design with infinitely variable adjustability,” says Lange. “It turns a tool and necessary aid into a stunning and enriching companion.” 

Engineering the wheelchair was no easy feat with over 5,000 hours of dedicated creation going into its development, which is just under 7 months. According to the company, Lange and his team found it difficult to find manufacturers who could deliver on their design of high-strength, production-grade parts in the smaller quantities they needed for testing.

“Our biggest challenge was finding a flexible manufacturer that could provide us with the parts required to meet this low-volume production plan,” says Lange.

At first, PARAFREE produced prototyping parts with a local manufacturer, but the design requirements they had soon exceeded the shop's available capacity. Now looking for a new solution to their manufacturing challenges, Lange and his team were able to get help from Hubs, an online manufacturing platform.

With the manufacturing side of things taken care of, Lange and his team were able to get back to what they do best: refining their product and incorporating innovative attachments into the fundamental design. This enabled them to achieve the remarkable modularity that has proven to be adaptable to a broad range of uses.

Its ergonomic design works for all heights from 59 to 76.7 in. or 4' 9" to 6' 4" (1.5 to 1.95 m). The quick-release system allows users to switch between a 3-wheel and a 4-wheel insertion as well as many other add-ons that can be added without tools. Additionally, the wheelchair is light, can be folded up compactly, and can be stored to save space.

“Every young designer dreams of changing the world with a product that improves people's lives. Hubs has given us reassurance in the way we design our parts, and certainty that we are doing it right," remarked Lange.

Fun Innovations Friday

Created by the editors of New Equipment Digest and Plant Services, Fun Innovations Friday is a feel-good blog that showcases how advances in science, math, engineering, and technology are making our world more whimsical. Here’s another post that is guaranteed to brighten your day.

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