GREENBANK Sports Academy (GSA), part of Liverpool-based charity, Greenbank, has developed a first-of-its-kind dual-use sports wheelchair that allows users to play both power hockey and football.
With support from the LCR 4.0 programme, the academy, which is both owned and run by people with disabilities, collaborated with Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) to improve its “heavy and bulky” prototype named “The Thunderbolt” and create an easy to use, lightweight and transportable wheelchair.
GSA worked closely with the academic and technical staff at LJMU to identify and implement design improvements to the prototype. Following 3D modelling of The Thunderbolt, an alternative lightweight material was sourced to develop the model further, leading to a significant drop in the weight of the chair, increasing the maneuverability for the user through a novel design to be easier to use and more transportable.
As a result of the collaboration with LCR 4.0 and LJMU, GSA predict the new and improved wheelchair could retail for as little as half the cost of current chairs on the market, whilst providing increased functionality. Greenbank now produces the chairs in partnership with North West Training Council in Liverpool.
Greenbank’ Sports Academy project manager, Peter Wyman said: “We were aware that a similar product is available in America, but that model is designed solely for wheelchair football. Our goal with “The Thunderbolt” was therefore to plug the dual-use gap, while also working with partners like LCR 4.0 to reduce the initial bulkiness of the prototype.
“Now, thanks to that support, we have a new model of a wheelchair that will benefit the lives of not just disabled people in Liverpool but people all over the world.”
Anthony Walker, LJMU strategic manager for LCR 4.0 added: “Through the LCR 4.0 programme, Greenbank Sports Academy has been able to tap into LJMU’s in-house facilities and expertise, and as a result, develop and design a product that has real global potential.
“GSA’s mission to help people with disabilities access physical education, sports, and recreational facilities makes them quite different to any other SME we have worked with on the LCR 4.0 programme to date. Having a charity like this turning to us for help in developing their exciting prototype really highlights how Industry 4.0 is not just about creating opportunities for industry, but for society.”
GSA, LCR 4.0 and LJMU are continuing to collaborate on the project, the outcome of which is expected to bring further improvements to The Thunderbolt prototype.
The LCR 4.0 programme is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is being delivered in partnership by some of the region’s key knowledge and scientific assets: the University of Liverpool (through its Virtual Engineering Centre), Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LCR LEP), Liverpool John Moores University (Faculty of Engineering and Technology), the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Hartree Centre and Sensor City.
LCR 4.0 is a part of the Liverpool City Region Local Growth Hub.