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A smart solution for a complex product

A smart solution for a complex product

Based in Devon and part of the CliniMed group of companies, CareFlex has produced specialist seating in the UK since 1995. Recognising that each user has specific and problematical needs, the innovative specialist makes seating for a range of people with different requirements. This includes those recovering after a fall and those with neurological or musculoskeletal conditions. The company has a clear understanding of the challenges in balancing comfort, pressure relief, posture control and independence.

The company’s revolutionary SmartSeat Pro is a highly adjustable, modular seating system for users with complex postural and pressure management needs. The multi-adjustable back of the chair has three upper backrest components that can be altered in height, depth, and angle and can be offset and rotated. Each of the elements includes built-in adjustable wings that can be positioned individually to contour the seat back to the user’s shape. 

In the design of this particularly complex product, CareFlex approach Sapa Profiles to see if an aluminium solution for the construction could be sound. The result was an extrusion from a single die that is an integral part of the SmartSeatPro. The extrusion was designed to perform several key functions within the chair including unlimited height adjustability and repeated functionality use. The extrusion fulfils another function in that it hides the ancillary equipment used to control the ‘Back Angle Recline’ feature. 

Taking advantage of the hollow extrusion, the profile is designed to house the gas spring or electric actuator, hiding unseemly cables from view and creating a clean look to the back of the chair. Furthermore, when a chair is built for manual operation of the chair functions such as ‘Tilt-in-Space’ and ‘Back Angle Recline’, there are levers attached to the handle bars. Each CareFlex chair represents hundreds of hours of research, consideration and expertise in specialist seating.  All chairs are made to order, following initial assessment to match the user to the right chair. Custom-made chairs are available when special modifications are necessary. Every chair is thoroughly tested and incorporates patented design features that have a real impact on practical usage. CareFlex’s range of specialist seating has been classified into five levels based on a user’s level of need and the required complexity of the chair.

The Tilt-in-Space facility allows the reclining angle of the chair seat and back to be adjusted, without adjusting the user’s hip and knee angle. If the user is not very mobile, Tilt-in-Space should be adjusted regularly to redistribute body weight and help combat fatigue. This feature can also reposition the user from upright for activity and eating, to a reclined angle for resting.

CareFlex first contacted Sapa Profiles in late summer 2014, with design discussions taking place in November 2014. The product was delivered in March 2015, a quick turnaround that has proved invaluable to the success of the new product. The development of the SmartSeatPro also benefitted from Sapa Profiles’ fabrication services. CareFlex’s senior design engineer, Chris Northcott describes the fabrication services as essential to the product. Three sides of the profile are drilled, to fix the mount bracket of the gas spring or electric actuator in place. In addition to the drilling, the extrusions are painted black to match the rest of the metalwork and give a more pleasing aesthetic.

“This was an extremely complex extrusion that needed to fulfil many requirements,” comments Northcott. “The staff at Sapa were extremely reassuring and supportive during what could have been a difficult time. The communication was second to none and has continued since the first delivery of extrusions. We initially chose Sapa over other suppliers because of their range of services; they extruded the profile, carried out fabrication and also powder-coated it. In the long-term, Sapa offered a cost-effective, turnkey solution with the added benefit of ongoing support.

Yann Beck, managing director of Sapa Profiles, comments: “Despite the complexity of CareFlex’s initial request, we knew we would be able to produce an effective solution. Working closely with CareFlex, our design team was able to turn around a solution from the initial enquiry in a matter of months.”

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