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CSEM has developed a 3D printed medical cushion for wheelchair users


10 April 2023

CSEM has joined forces with the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPS) to develop a custom 3D-printed medical-grade cushion for wheelchair users.

People with mobility impairments face daily challenges like walking up and down stairs or using public transportation. In addition to physical barriers, they often deal with health issues such as pressure injuries, which are painful, costly to treat, and difficult to manage.

CSEM and the Swiss Paraplegic Foundation (SPS) have collaborated to create a bespoke 3D-printed medical-grade cushion for wheelchair users. This advanced cushion is breathable, washable, and digitally customizable, delivering substantial benefits compared to traditional air-filled orthopedic cushions. Crucially, it has the potential to improve wheelchair users’ quality of life by reducing pressure injuries.

The open-cell 3D printing technique was initially developed by CSEM for a project with the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). This technology allows the production of objects with open-cell structures, which are excellent at distributing and relieving pressure and are highly flexible. An SPS research associate who uses a wheelchair saw the potential in this technology and asked CSEM to develop open-cell seat cushions.

Custom-made support cushions play a vital role in preventing pressure injuries, but their manufacturing has been labor-intensive, expensive, and challenging to clean. CSEM and SPS have worked together to test and optimize the 3D-printed open-cell cushion. The printed cushions have superior moisture-wicking and temperature-regulating properties compared to conventional cushions, making them easier to wash and maintain.

Significantly improving the quality of life of wheelchair users

The first prototype, however, was too heavy and took too long to print. CSEM made selective adjustments to the structure, addressing these issues while considering the needs of all individuals. The resulting design has received positive feedback, and the team is proud of their accomplishment.

CSEM, in collaboration with SPS, is currently seeking a partner to commercialize and further customize this innovative product. The 3D-printed medical-grade cushion has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for wheelchair users by helping to prevent pressure injuries and providing a more comfortable and hygienic seating solution.