Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Tough 3D Printing Puts Outdoorsy Spin on Rugged Icon Wheelchairs

ST Medical Devices

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Today, it often seems like anything should be possible with the advanced technology so many researchers, inventors, and designers have at their fingertips. And many innovations are allowing the disabled to add to their quality of life—including those who rely on wheelchairs. We’ve seen such devices created via 3D printing for everyday use, Paralympics racing, and more—even to include wheelchairs for a variety of animals such as a kitten, a puppy, and a two-legged goat named Lilly.

Focusing on the human angle, Christian Bagg and Jeff Adams founded Icon Wheelchairs in 2010. Headquartered in Toronto, the team uses a Markforged 3D printer to create customized parts for their wheelchairs. Beginning years ago with a customized, adjustable manual wheelchair, Icon has continued to create wheelchairs that facilitate more activity as well as offering a comfortable fit for each user’s body type and physical requirements.

Two new products are geared toward outdoor activity specifically.

The Mark Two [Image: Markforged]

Icon has used SOLIDWORKS for design, and the Mark Two for 3D printing the parts for the new wheelchairs. Baggs and Adams, along with many other users worldwide, rely on the powerful 3D printer to create parts quickly, as well as affordably.

“These are wheelchairs for off-roading and for tough use,” Jason Eubanks, Chief Revenue Officer, Markforged, told on our recent visit to their Boston headquarters. “They’re built with printed parts, so they can be truly customizable and can adapt for each user.”

The new three-wheeled Explore Handcycle and the Trailblazer were created with patented technology featuring two wheels on an articulating front geometry. Even when on rougher terrain, the person in the wheelchair can be assured of remaining stable and upright.

“The Markforged 3D printing technology changed everything about the way I design,” says Bagg. “I have been designing these bikes for more than fifteen years, and have been able to make vast improvements in the design as time goes on. By creating custom parts that are light and strong, Markforged allows us to design more audaciously, and faster, than ever before.”

The Explore Handcycle was designed for rugged terrain. The Icon team explains that those using these progressive wheelchairs not only ‘have complete access to all types of outdoor adventure,’ but the front end supports their upright position at a 35 degree slope—demonstrating a feature that is unique to Icon products. This allows users to ride comfortably in sand, snow, rocky areas, and even on paths meant for mountain biking. It is available in the following:

  • 316 stainless
  • 7000 series aluminum
  • Titanium
  • Carbon

A kiteboarding harness system centers the user, offering support from the seat and backrest.

“The three-wheeled configuration triangulates the footprint, the articulating front technology means that all wheels remain in contact with the ground, and premium component upgrades are available for personal customization,” states the Icon team.

The Trailblazer is a three-wheeler. Offering a lightweight design, it does require outside help as a guide pushes while the person in the wheelchair is responsible for steering. Icon created the Trailblazer to handle rough terrain, whether in snow or on mountain trails. Icon has shared it with hundreds of kids at outdoor camps, many of who are battling cancer or other disabilities. They are also loaned out at some parks.

“3D printing with Markforged printers solves so many problems for us. The leap from invention and production has always been a big one for us, because of prototyping difficulties, and most importantly it solves a lot of our issues with minimum orders of parts, so we can do small runs of parts that address a particular need for a small number of people in a way that we just never could before,” says Adams.

“We also have a regulatory obligation to provide parts for a certain number of years, so now, instead of having to have a bunch of parts sitting on a shelf gathering dust and wondering if we’re ever even going to need them, we keep a really good vault of drawings, and if anyone needs a part, we can just print one for them. It’s really changed our business in fundamental ways, from design to production to cash-flow to regulatory, and opened doors for us to provide life-changing technology to people who need it.”

Icon Wheelchairs joins the ranks of many other innovators today who have shared their creative gifts to help the disabled, whether they may have trouble with sight, hearing, mobility, or more.

What do you think of this latest news? Let us know your thoughts! Please join the discussion at, or share your comments below.

[Source / Images: Icon Wheelchairs, unless otherwise noted]


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