The financial cost of wheelchairs and their peripherals is a common concern within the wheelchair-using community, so much so that many lesser fortunate people cannot even afford a basic chair, much less something motorized.
In order to maintain a budget that people can live on, wheelchair users have sacrificed much, and are often driven to the secondary market to purchase refurbished wheelchairs as well as used wheelchair vans for sale.
While the financial strain of being a person with disabilities isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. technology has made great strides in cutting those costs, and with the onset of 3D printing and other technologies, we could be entering a world where creating your own cost effective wheelchair will indeed be possible.
A do-it-yourself-wheelchair build?
Enter Justin and Esther Jensen, parents of two children who suffer from degenerative diseases that prevent them from walking. Faced with a potential wheelchair bill that topped $10,000, the family inspired a team of engineers at Brigham Young University to solve the problem of costly motorized wheelchairs. The team set out to design a do-it-yourself motorized wheelchair that was both lightweight and extremely affordable.
After a year of research and design, a working prototype wheelchair was created. Using PVC pipe and a few other easy to obtain materials, the team built a working motorized wheelchair that could be controlled by a simple joystick. The chair can hold children up to fifty pounds and can be easily created using materials found online or in hardware stores.
Best of all, the plans for the wheelchair are open sourced, meaning that they are free from copyright laws and therefore can be replicated and modified by anyone, free of charge. This opens up 3D printing aficionados to finding ways to produce the chair at even lower prices.
Creating your own materials
The onset of 3D printers is slowly building a community of do-it-yourself healthcare manufacturers who are seeking to create cheap medical devices (everything from wheelchairs to artificial limbs) right from the comfort of their homes.
It hasn’t been long since Mohammad Sayed, a teenager at the Nuvu experimental school in Cambridge, created his own wheelchair modifications that cost no more than two or three dollars a piece.
As the price of 3D printers drops, and it inevitably will, new technology is leading us to a place where the cost of a motorized children’s wheelchair could be less than $100.
And with more amazing people like Sayed and the students at BYU, there will be no shortage of free plans circling the internet that could allow people to create the wheelchairs they need for a fraction of the retail price.
It’s a world that we would certainly love to reside in one day.
What do you think of 3D printing your own wheelchair? Is it possible in the near future? Let us know in the comments below.