Super-light sports wheelchair developed in Liverpool will benefit people worldwide

Greenbank Sports Academy joined forces with experts at LJMU via the city region LCR 4.0 programme to develop ‘The Thunderbolt’ that for disabled power hockey and football players. Tony McDonough reports

Greenbank Sports Academy
Pupils of Broadgreen International School using The Thunderbolt wheelchair. Image from Greenbank Sports Academy


Cutting edge digital technology has been utilised by Greenbank Sports Academy (GSA) in Liverpool to create a pioneering sports wheelchair that allows users to play power hockey and football.

GSA, part of local charity Greenbank, worked with Liverpool John Moores University (LJLMU) via the LCR 4.0 programme to improve its “heavy and bulky” prototype named ‘The Thunderbolt’ and create an easy to use, lightweight and transportable wheelchair.

Academic and technical staff at LJMU helped GSA 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.

LCR 4.0 is a Euro-funded Liverpool city region programme focused on what is called the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ or Industry 4.0 – which will see a huge growth in connectivity between digital and physical assets.

GSA predicts 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.

Peter Wyman, project manager at GSA, 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 such as 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.”

LCR 4.0 is a part of the Liverpool City Region Local Growth Hub.

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