Disability of any kind can give rise to many challenges that make it difficult for individuals to function efficiently and effectively. Over time, man has used ingenuity to overcome these challenges and has made leaps of progress in the last few decades. A wheelchair is a very basic example of such an ingenious invention, having been innovated over time to make it easier for people to use them regularly.
From Humble Beginnings
The oldest recorded example of a wheelchair can be dated back to 1595. The design has remained somewhat similar over the years, with the main focus on making the wheelchair easier to use through innovation. Wheelchairs first become commercially available to consumers from Bath, England. The three-wheeled wheelchair was invented by an inventor named John Dawson in 1783.
The availability of wheelchairs to the public allowed an uplifting of living conditions for disabled people who could move around short distances with more ease. Further developments also included added comfort and safety features such as sturdier frames, reclining seats, and better seating design to help with the posture. The tubular-style steel wheelchair that is used today was invented by engineer Harry Jennings and his paraplegic friend, Herbert Everest, in 1932.
Towards Ingenious Innovation
As people become more and more aware of the unique needs that people with disabilities have, we are seeing a higher funding in research and development of innovative products to facilitate such people. Newer technologies have been used to make the basic design of a wheelchair better over time, keeping in view individual needs and financial restrictions of the users.
3D Printing is an example of such modern technology where we are breaking ground for the betterment of people with restricted movement. 3D printing allows us to use computers to design all sorts of shapes and then transform them into usable objects with millimeter accuracy. This enables us to develop and design prototypes on a much larger scale with great precision, in a faster time.
3D printing technologies have evolved rapidly over the past few years. Where it would have taken three to five days to print out a module in the recent past, now it can be done overnight in some cases. This has allowed designers and researchers to print out new designs for wheelchairs in quick succession, testing every new innovation and then improving upon it. Creating wheelchairs through 3D printing also reduces the production cost, bringing mobility solutions to a larger number of people globally.
It is true that wheelchairs have evolved into much more complex machines over time, but more improvement is still needed. The coupling of easy usage with modern technology is still not quite there, but we are definitely on the right track. Technologies like 3D printing are proving to be very useful in this evolution of the wheelchair, not only because it allows for quicker testing of new products, but also because of its lower cost.