An affordable ultra-light wheelchair

Quebec firm designs wheel chair made from composite materials

February 23, 2012— Saint-Roch-de-l'Achigan, Quebec

Motion Composites Inc.

In 2004, Éric Simoneau, a graduate of HEC Montreal's business administration program, and David Gingras, a graduate in automated production engineering from École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), came up with the idea of designing a wheelchair that is two times lighter, more durable and more affordable than a traditional wheelchair.

The lesser known world of composites

“At first, the new thing was to use carbon,” explains Éric Simoneau, President of Motion Composites Inc. "We had already come up with a concept, gathered a small amount of start-up capital and we knew that, at the time, there was no wheelchair made from composite materials on the market. However, we still had to build it.” Georges Lagacé, an Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) for the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), assembled a team of professionals in health and other sectors to assist in the company’s progress.

“We put Éric and David in contact with André Dubois, an expert in the finite element analysis of composite materials. He turned out to be such an amazing resource person that he still works as a consultant for the company,” says Georges.

David Gingras, Co-founder and Vice President of Operations, and Éric Simoneau, Co-founder and President of Motion Composites, with the Helio model designed for sports enthusiasts.

Towards commercial feasibility

The first project with NRC-IRAP allowed Motion Composites to finalize the design, establish the materials, and initiate the building phase. Shortly after, Éric and David began to build their first prototype. In the spring of 2006, a second project was started, during which, economic and technical difficulties arose. NRC-IRAP resources allowed them to find subcontractors who could help with these issues.

Hamid Ould Brahim, an ITA with expertise in composite technology, helped resolve the technical issues by sourcing a local company that developed a stronger, less expensive glue. Meanwhile, Louis Renaud, an ITA who specializes in the health sector, advised them on how to penetrate the complex Quebec market. With the assistance of NRC-IRAP, Motion Composites overcame many major obstacles, such as optimizing the various building materials, the structure, the mechanisms, the mounting plates for the wheels, and resolving production issues.

“NRC-IRAP’s support allowed us to resolve various technological issues and to implement our production system,” says Éric. “We knew that our product was interesting, but it was not yet feasible at the commercial level. We needed to go further.”

A third project with NRC-IRAP began in 2010 to improve their wheelchair, while reducing its production cost, and to develop a range of wheelchairs for both target clients, i.e. children and people with bariatric problems (obesity).

A wheelchair moving forward

In 2011, Motion Composites had the wind in its sails. “Without NRC-IRAP’s credibility and its network of contacts, we would not have been able to complete the funding process with the other partners,” says Éric. In addition to NRC-IRAP’s assistance, the company also relies on support from Canada Economic Development, the Regional Economic Intervention Fund (FIER), Sustainable Growth, Montcalm Local Development Centre, Emploi-Québec, Investissement Québec, and from the Achigan Montcalm Community Futures Development Corporation.

“NRC-IRAP’s support allowed us to resolve various technological issues and to implement our production system.”

Éric Simoneau, Preseident of Motion Composites Inc.

Throughout the process, the financial assistance from NRC-IRAP allowed Motion Composites to hire specialized employees to help achieve their technical objectives. “We went from the concept stage to the production stage in 12 months, a record performance thanks to the support from NRC-IRAP,” adds Éric.

Motion Composites manufactures approximately 1,500 Helio wheelchairs each year. With a team of 17 permanent employees and 8 representatives, the company plans to grow throughout North America.

Enquiries: Media relations


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