Paralympics GB basketball champion, Ade Orogbemi trying out one of the new seats (Courstey of SA Images).
3DPrinting technology is being used to support the performance and achievements of disabled people in at the 2012 London Paralympics – for the first time innovative customised seats will be used, by the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Team.
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.
Dr Gavin Williams, project leader says: “Within any wheelchair basketball team, both the nature and the extent of the players’ physical abilities vary considerably, 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”.
In total 8 players, four men and four women will be using the new seats at the Paralympics this year. The seats were developed with UK Sport funding at Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Institute, supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
Team members initially underwent 3D scans to capture their bodies’ biomechanical movements and their positions in their existing wheelchairs. A moulding bag containing small polystyrene balls (similar to a bean bag style seat), was used to capture the shape of the player when seated.
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) capabilities were then used to refine the shape of the outer layer of the seat to suit each individual player and help position the seat onto the frame.
3DPrinting 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. Such individualised seats could reduce the problems with pressure sores currently experienced by a great number of wheelchair users.
The event is held at the Basketball Arena in the Olympic Park and the North Greenwich Arena between Thursday 30th August and Saturday 8th September.