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Chw 29. 2024

1 year later: An update on PDR and V-Trak’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership

In late 2022, we began a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with V-Trak, a wheelchair seating company, aiming to revolutionise design and manufacturing methods through bespoke, user-centred strategies. A year into the project, KTP Associate Will Dauncey shares his key milestones and achievements. They emphasise the shift towards high-performance lattice structures in backrests that leverage cutting-edge 3D printing technology. This innovation is part of a broader ambition to enhance the product’s aesthetics as well as comfort, posture, and pressure relief.

“We’ve focused on replacing traditional foam with customisable, high-performance lattice structures built right into the backrest itself. This technology is currently being used in the production of similar products, such as bike saddles, running shoes and shoe insoles, but our shift to this new approach isn't just about aesthetics; it's about fundamentally changing the user experience,” Will explains.

But V-TRAK is also actively leading research and development in this field, specifically to quantify the mechanical characteristics of wheelchair seating. As part of the KTP project, Will led the development of an ISO 16840-3 testing rig, the first of its kind in the UK. This has allowed V-TRAK to ensure these innovative seats meet the highest standards for durability and safety. It also opens the door to collaboration with other manufacturers and researchers in the field.

Will continues: “Currently there are no test centres in the UK and very few worldwide that meet this important ISO testing standard, meaning the KTP offers a valuable research and development capacity. This dedication to rigorous testing sets V-TRAK apart, guaranteeing their advancements translate into reliable, real-world benefits for wheelchair users.

A key achievement of the year was establishing the Permobil 3D printing R&D group and linking with Permobil’s R&D teams in the Netherlands, Sweden and the US. “This has reinforced the importance of researching and applying this advanced computer-aided design and manufacturing technology within V-TRAK.” Now at the forefront of new developments within Permobil, “the ambition is for this research to lead to new first-to-market additively manufactured backrest products with improved weight, support and comfort,” Will explains.

“With such an impressive opening year for the project, the future involves building on our work so far. We’ll continue our research into the latest lattice generation software and optimising additive manufacturing strategies.”

“I plan to continue collaboration with Permobil’s 3D printing group, which will be complemented by my research work with the team in Swansea and PDR,” Will states. “Our early research identified a disconnect between what the ISO standards demand for testing and real-world wheelchair user experience.

We are therefore measuring the real-world user forces and comparing with those specified in the standard. By combining case study analysis, real-world user data, and custom testing, we gain valuable insights into design vulnerabilities and identify opportunities for improvement.”

Reflecting on the project as a whole, Will shared how the KTP has been a ‘game changer’ in his design abilities. “It’s thrown me into the deep end of designing for people with complex needs. This meant balancing all sorts of things at once, from understanding physical challenges to strict medical design rules and the importance of business factors. Now I’m able to navigate these complexities confidently, creating solutions that make a real difference in people's lives.”

Next steps

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