The Paralympic Games have showcased to a global audience the achievements of disabled people and feats of superhuman strength. A good news for these athletes is, new technology will be used to support them with their performance. For the first time innovative tailor-made seats will be used by Paralympics GB for the wheelchair basketball events this summer (2012).
Paralympic wheelchairs are individually moulded for each player by taking the individual's size, shape and particular disability into account. For example, a player with a spinal cord injury will have a seat that provides additional support around their lower back.
"Within any wheelchair basketball team, both the nature and the extent of the players' physical abilities vary considerably," says Dr Gavin Williams, who has led the project.
"Traditionally players have had a very limited choice of seat designs and a tailor-made approach was not possible. The new seats, which include part of the back rest, are made specifically to accommodate each individual's needs".
The seats have been developed with UK Sport funding at Loughborough University's Sports Technology Institute, which is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Team members initially underwent 3D scans to capture their bodies' biomechanical movements and their positions in their existing wheelchairs.
Seats were then optimized using computer-aided design and afterwards 3D printed - using selective laser sintering technology from EOS.
(images courtesy: EPSRC)
3D printing technology helps to reduce the weight of seat by a kilo, and with the overall chair being two kilos lighter than the chairs that were used in Beijing because of other modifications to the chair itself.
Bespoke seats could reduce the problems with pressure sores currently experienced by a great number of wheelchair users, and they enabled the athletes to shave tenths of a second off their best times, says Dr Gavin Williams. "That represents a huge improvement in a player's ability to reach the ball and move around the court."
In total 8 players, four men and four women will be using the new seats at the Paralympics this year.
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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