More than 20% of Australians use a wheelchair regularly or occasionally. Many wheelchair users need several different chairs in their daily life: a normal chair, a commode chair, a shower chair and occasionally a travel chair. This is expensive and inconvenient. The Freedom Wheelchair meets all these needs.
Launched at the University of Western Sydney’s Macarthur campus by Pat Farmer, MP for Macarthur, on November 9th, the new chair uses an ultra light, ultra strong, nanotechnology-enhanced stainless steel tube to solve the problems. This tube is many times stronger than titanium steel tube and much lighter.
The Freedom wheelchair has no axle between the wheels, which are independently sprung. That means it can roll over a toilet bowl. It is highly corrosion resistant so it can be used in the shower. At 5.1 kg without wheels and upholstery it is lighter than any chair available now. It is highly manoeuvrable. It has shock absorbers on each wheel.
Unlike all other chairs it folds like a book. Without wheels it can fit in the overhead baggage compartment of most planes.
The chair is made using Sandvik NanoFlex® s/s tube, polymers with nano-fillers, nylon and carbon fibre. The design can only be manufactured by using these very advanced materials. Lu Papi had to develop a special process to bend the NanoFlex® which had never before been bent successfully any where in the world.
Lu Papi & Associates have finished the first prototype and are in discussions with other parties regarding setting up the manufacturing facility. The Freedom wheelchair should be available for sale by the end of 2008.
Lu Papi & Associates is a small, flexible, widely networked, engineering consulting company that specialises in new product development and the introduction of new processing techniques. We work with companies, individuals and universities to create new products from good ideas, improve existing products and solve manufacturing problems.