Digital manufacturing company Replique, which specializes in developing simple and sustainable industrial processes, has leveraged HP‘s industry-leading Multi Jet Fusion technology to revolutionize the way wheelchairs are designed and manufactured. Through on-demand production, wheelchairs can now be manufactured more efficiently, cost-effectively and tailored to end-user needs.
Replique’s mission to make the transition to decentralized manufacturing easy, smooth and safe played a critical role in its collaboration with RehaMedPower, a Germany-based manufacturer of custom medical solutions focused on wheelchairs. During the development process of a new power wheelchair, the RP1, the company struggled to find a cost-effective solution for producing some components. This was because conventional manufacturing methods would have meant high initial investment costs, expensive molds, and a lengthy prototype development and market launch process.
Working closely with RehaMedPower, Replique therefore analyzed the potential of additive manufacturing (AM) for wheelchair design. To do so, Replique relied on HP’s Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology from prototype development through volume production.
Together, they identified many more components than originally planned that could be 3D printed from PA12 (polyamide 12). They benefited from the increased flexibility of this technology in the early stages of production, as well as the cost efficiency of 3D printing compared to conventional manufacturing methods. Depending on the patient’s individual requirements, between 19 and 23 individual parts of the wheelchair are produced using the 3D printing process.
From the footrest attachment to the body kit and headrest cover, up to 23 parts of the RP1 are 3D printed.
In addition to the significant cost savings of eliminating the need for injection molds, costs were also reduced thanks to the digital storage of design files via Replique’s digital storage platform. This not only enabled an accelerated time to market, but also minimized RehaMedPower’s capital commitment. To date, RehaMedPower has realized a 30% reduction in development time, as well as a 60% reduction in prototype costs compared to injection molding production. But the real winners are customers and patients worldwide, who now benefit from even more personalized care.
Not every disability is the same. Yet wheelchair users have had few personalization options available to them. 3D printing technology is paving the way for more flexible wheelchair design that can be customized to meet individual patient needs. With RehaMedPower’s RP1 wheelchair, patients have the ability to customize various parts according to their needs, as well as choose from a wide range of colors.
The successful launch of the RP1 wheelchair last year was followed by scaling throughout Europe and even as far as New Zealand. Going forward, RehaMedPower plans to build on this success. For example, they plan to incorporate additional AM designs into the RP1 wheelchair and develop new products to expand their innovative range of accessible solutions. In the near future, Replique’s global manufacturing network will also ensure rapid availability of replacement parts during use, allowing patients and customers to receive replacement parts as needed, anytime, anywhere.
“3D-printed prototypes have enabled us to significantly reduce our development time,” comments Thyl Junker, Head of Development at RehaMedPower. “In series production, the cooperation with Replique also offers decisive advantages in our industry, such as greater flexibility in demand planning through on-demand production or the ability to implement changes quickly and meet individual requirements with custom-made parts.”
“Our cooperation with RehaMedPower illustrates that 3D printing offers much more than just efficient prototyping. It enables companies to offer customer-centric solutions while remaining cost-efficient and flexible in serial production thanks to our digital warehouse platform. We look forward to continuing to simplify RehaMedPower’s business processes and, most importantly, the lives of their valued patients,” emphasizes Mark Winker, Technical Sales Manager at Replique.