Every few years in the fall, new technologies from multiple mobility manufacturers launch simultaneously and the world of wheelchairs reaches yet another level. This is one of those extraordinary seasons.
Invacare Turns on the Power
In 2012, Invacare entered into a consent decree to stop manufacturing and designing FDA-regulated custom power chairs in the U.S. until it addressed its quality control systems. This summer, Invacare was declared free of the consent decree and given the green light to begin full operations. As a global player in complex rehab power chairs, Invacare has remained active in Europe, both in design and manufacturing, so once the consent decree was lifted, new products were ready to be introduced to the U.S. power chair market. This fall’s launch of the TDX SP2 marks a big return to high-end complex rehab power chairs for Invacare in the United States. In fact, it’s their most advanced power chair to date. Specifically, the TDX SP2 is the next generation of the once industry-leading TDX series — and it lives up to its legacy.
The TDX SP2 features all that users loved about the preceding TDX models, including its terrain-hugging SureStep suspension that keeps all six wheels on the ground. However, where the TDX SP2 makes leaps in innovation is in its LiNX electronics. LiNX is built around refining the drive experience. Rather than using a traditional numerical “programmer” to tailor driving characteristics to the user, a Bluetooth tablet programmer allows real-time programming adjustments via a graphical interface. An image of the power chair appears on the tablet with corresponding lines. By swiping the screen, the drive lines are moved, adjusting such parameters as acceleration, deceleration, turn speed, and so on. What’s more, via LiNX programming, motor compensation — which dictates how a motor performs on various terrains — can be fine-tuned for a user’s specific environments. LiNX also has the capability to log diagnostics data and upload it through the user’s cell phone with an app to the cloud for analysis by Invacare or a provider. Lastly, although no launch date was given at press time, LiNX features the first power chair hand-control touch screen option, allowing power chair operation very similar to that of a smart phone.
There’s a lot to LiNX as a system — and it is a creative advancement in power chair electronics.
Quantum Moves Toward the Forefront
Front-wheel drive power chairs have been a staple in Europe for over four decades, but less so in North America. There has been only one major player consistent in the front-wheel drive market, with little to no competition. Quantum seeks to change that with the launch of its new 4Front front-wheel drive power chair.
The 4Front introduces two notable innovations to the front-wheel-drive market. First, the 4Front features exclusive intuitive CASE (caster angle sensor encoder) technology. CASE technology allows more fluent, predictable driving.
Secondly, the 4Front features true automotive-grade suspension. The “diamond suspension” system, described based on its geometry, features gas-charged coil-over shocks that provide absorption for comfort and dampening for performance just like on a car. The result is four-wheel independent suspension that not only provides among the softest rides in the industry, but optimizes stability, right down to the equivalent of control arms.
Between the driving technology and true suspension, the 4Front handles straight, smooth and stable.
Ki Creates a New Seating Axiom
Ki has taken the ultralight wheelchair world by storm, and now it has introduced a complete cushion line that’s derived from a culmination of seating science and cutting-edge technology. Ki worked with renowned rehab engineering think-tank, Georgia Tech, to best apply anthropometrics — the science of measuring the human body and its proportions — to evolve its cushion technology. Specifically, Ki’s Axiom cushion line is based on “pre-contouring.” Among the most effective seating is that which is custom-molded to your shape. It approximates the least pressure. However, it’s impossible to do with an off-the-shelf cushion. Axiom addresses this with extensive science-based pre-contouring. An Axiom cushion is formed to anatomical parameters, so rather than sitting on a flatter surface cushion that presses back, most users are encapsulated by the Axiom’s pre-contoured shape. The result is enhanced support and immersion, decreasing pressure.
The Axiom line features five versions, from a basic general use cushion all the way up to a full skin protection and positioning cushion for complex rehab use. Surfaces range from molded-in relief to a visco foam insert to a HydroLite fluid bladder. All Axiom cushions feature a premium four-way stretch Lycra cover with exceptional attention to details — like a stylized zipper and accessory handle.
Axiom may be a new name in cushions, but it’s hard to forget once you’ve seen the quality of the product.
Innovation Fosters Innovation
Innovative seasons like we are seeing this fall are both inspiring and intriguing because when we see individual manufacturers raising the bar of mobility technology in specific areas, it means that others are soon to follow.