A disabled former Royal Marine Commando has described a new wheelchair designed at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield as a ‘game changer for users the world over’.
Two prototypes made by AMRC engineers incorporate an arm to raise users to ‘a social height’, multi-directional all-terrain wheels, the ability to turn on the spot and a ‘cool’ design inspired by Star Wars.
Called ‘Victor’, the wheelchair is the brainchild of Corporal Phil Eaglesham, who contracted Q fever in Afghanistan in October 2010 and is now completely reliant on a wheelchair.
He said: “Current devices on the market are outdated and not fit for my generation. Development has been lacking, and existing designs stigmatise the user.
“People judge with their eyes, so something that looks limiting affects how other people interact with the person using it.”
In 2015, he set up Conquering Horizons (with his wife Julie and businessman Brian Meaden) to create a mobility device that had none of the drawbacks and was introduced to engineers at the Medical AMRC, part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, who set about bringing his vision to life.
Medical AMRC senior project engineer Samuel Rees (www.amrc.co.uk
) said: “For the seat, we invented a lifting mechanism that has the whole lifting arm going through an actuator, onto a rocker arm and then onto a shock absorber.
“It provides a really plush ride, so you could drive it at full speed off a curb, and the landing is really soft.
“We also invented a novel design of omni-wheels, arranged with differential steering to spin on the spot.
“The idea is that the wheelchair can be used indoors or outdoors and can move quickly and silently over varied terrain, using four-wheel drive.”
Mr Rees said that one of the biggest challenges was creating a mobility device that was ‘cool’ but met strict Government guidelines.
“We wanted a design that looked good from any angle; every single part had to be open to scrutiny, while maintaining the objective of the brief, which was to ensure that an able-bodied person would want to be seen using it.”