GO was imagined and designed by Layer, a London-based industrial design studio. Layer solely invents from tangible and daily experiences, to invent meaningful devices, focused on the user’s “better-being”.
B enjamin Hubert – founder and director of Layer – has been practicing for fifteen years. At 26, after having first worked in a design agency, he sets up his own studio aiming to replace all of us sometimes neglected users, at the core of his projects. His studio takes on a multidisciplinary form, allowing long research phases during which he grants as much time and importance to learning from the medical profession as to studying a “generational body” sometimes maltreated, or as to focusing on the individual body being hampered by its specificities. He allows as much resources to research the undeniable benefits of natural, noble, raw materials as to comparing them to plastics, the latter having sometimes irreplaceable characteristics in terms of ergonomics. Anatomy is of course learned and analyzed, in combination with an in depth research on more macro topics such as our human societies, and lifestyles. Aesthetics is given as much importance as to practicality. And the user is given way more importance than that of the consumer.
Hence, GO comes after two years of research and development involving doctors, ergonomists, orthopedists, and most importantly, meeting people moving, cooking, working, reading, playing, laughing, dancing, living with or in a wheelchair.
Initially, Huber wanted to give the person his or her rightful place, as the chair often beccomes the main characteristic of its user, what defines him or her. And wheelchairs as we know them generally do not allow the user to present him or herself at his or her best. For instance, the studio understood from interviews with quadriplegic people that their feet irremediably point inward on the resting bars of their classic armchairs. Many feel frustrated because they could actually place their feet straight, and feel more comfortable and confident with a more common posture. The body speaks, right?
Now, the main and obvious aspect that has never been addressed before : each user has a specific body, a personal history, medical history, and simple preferences in terms of comfort. A person with a spinal pathology of the column would undoubtedly require a specific backrest morphologically fitted more than just padding. A pelvic deviation would require a specific seat inclination.
How to best adapt a mobility device to each person? Here comes Materialize, a Belgian 3D printing pioneer, who, together with Layer, is developing ascan-based anatomic data collecting process. These data, with help and knowledge from the medical profession, make it possible to imagine the right chair : as ergonomic as possible, and bringing the most benefit both on a daily and long-term basis. 3D printing files are created according to each morphology, pathology, lifestyle, and the printer then materializes the chair.
Besides the bespoke backrest and seat, handles, footrest, color are also customizable via a spartphone app, which also informs about the manufacturing pocess and status (3 weeks for GO against 6 to 8 for a classic wheelchair).
Originating from a design studio pioneering in the 3D printed wheelchair field, GO may still be an expensive device. However, it sheds a new light on how to address special needs and rething medical devices with properly handled biometrics combined with 3D printing. Let’s bet that the printing cost will decrease drastically with the democratization of this new technology.
Find more about Layer Design and Materialize.