This week BASF introduced the prototype of a concept wheelchair, the “Ren Chair,” co-created by Wheel-Line Co. Ltd, REHTO Design, and BASF. Developed in direct consultation with wheelchair users, the Ren Chair combines bold design and style with high-performance materials from BASF, addressing wheelchair users’ needs for a safer, barrier-free experience.
Material innovations, combined with the availability of advanced design systems, are creating new possibilities for wheelchair users and caregivers to enjoy more freedom and versatility.
“In China, we see strong demand for lightweight, durable wheelchairs with an attractive appearance,” said Dong Ok Kum, CEO, Wheel-Line. “BASF provides us with great solutions to realize our vision of reducing the weight of wheelchairs without compromising on design and functionality.”
Lightweight plastics for higher performance
Lightweight materials from BASF used in the Ren Chair offer greater convenience and comfort for both users and caregivers. Lighter weight offers ease of mobility and also helps caregivers reduce the risk of injuries. The dual-density seat, made with BASF’s Elastoflex W flexible foam polyurethane system (PU), provides greater comfort to the user, owing to the high elasticity and compressibility of the material. Furthermore, the artificial leather in the seat cover, made with Elastollan thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) provides excellent haptics and enables easy cleaning.
Digital tool, durable materials
A new smartphone app, which is connected to the sensors and connectors of the Ren Chair, can detect the wheelchair’s movement and control the signal lights on the back, navigating users to access barrier-free facilities. The sensors and connectors, made with Ultramid polyamide (PA) and Ultradur polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) are more robust against damage, such as breaks and cracks, thereby improving users’ safety on the road.
BASF’s high-performance material innovations used in the Ren Chair offer superior mechanical properties, including high strength, abrasion resistance, and chemical resistance. For example, the seat back, made of Elastollan TPU filament, provides comfortable and long-lasting seating with postural support, owing to its strength and durability.
Design freedom for complex geometries
BASF’s material innovations also enable freedom of design by using molding or 3D printing technology to produce complex shapes. Additionally, compared to traditional materials, high-performance materials such as TPU, expanded thermoplastic polyurethane (E-TPU), PU, and engineering plastics are simple to process and provide greater ease of coloring and decoration for more stylish designs, while maintaining the functionality. For instance, Elastoflex W possesses good flowability, which enables freedom of design for complex geometries.
The casters and caster housing in the wheels have been developed with the use of BASF’s proprietary simulation tool, Ultrasim. The tool provides precise calculations of the anisotropic mechanical behavior of material solutions, which optimize production and minimize development costs.
“BASF’s material solutions, coupled with its technical and simulation technologies enabled the design and functionality of the Ren Chair,” says Jae Sung Go, CEO, REHTO Design. “The flexibility offered by the advanced materials opened up the creative space for us in developing the design of the Ren Chair.”
“The Ren chair’s design was facilitated by the Creation Center, BASF’s dedicated touch-point for engaging and inspiring designers, bringing their design concept to reality with material innovations from BASF,” says Tony Jones, head, industrial, business management, Performance Materials Asia Pacific, BASF. “Together, we co-created a prototype with a new look, feel and experience for wheelchair users who strive for greater independence in their daily living.”
Other conceptual material solutions in the Ren Chair presented at CHINAPLAS 2019 include:
- BASF’s Ultramid Vision PA offers a distinctive rear signal light design on the back of the Ren Chair, owing to its enhanced optical properties.
- Ultramid Structure LFX in the wheel spokes and flip-up footrest, enhances the durability, due to its high stiffness and strength, as well as enhanced fatigue strength.
- Ultramid SI, a surface PA in the body frame, provides a high-quality surface look and feel, in addition to possessing high stiffness, rigidity and impact strength.
- Elastollan in the armrest lights possesses excellent anti-abrasion properties and transparency.
- Elasturan cast polyurethane PU in the casters and Ultramid PA for caster housing offers high resistance to dynamic and mechanical loads.
- Infinergy E-TPU in the tires enhances the overall riding experience as a result of the outstanding cushioning effect from the E-TPU particles.
- Ultraform polyoxymethylene (POM) in the gears of the release axle provides high flexural fatigue strength and good sliding friction performance.