The Steampunk Wheelchair Design That Changed A Boy’s Life

by | Sep 30, 2013 | 0 comments

Changing someone’s life through design. We wax eloquent at a surface level on how design in general changes lives for the better. For some, those words are lot more significant, espeically when the design helps them get around each day and perform functions most breeze through without a second thought. While we tend to take the functionality of design for granted, the form is another area set aside for practical reasons or maybe just lack of creativity. All it takes though is a simple request to wipe the slate and make a change. For Kyron, a 14 year old boy with Muscular Dystrophy who lives in Florence, Massachusetts, having a wheelchair that matched his interests was as important as getting from point A to B. GrabCAD put up the challenge with ModVic, a steampunk art and design company, to steampunk his Quantum Q6 Edge wheelchair. The result of the winning entry? Nothing but stunning.

Creating a Steampunk Wheelchair

A steampunk wheelchair you say? It happened, and Greg Hurley, the winner of challenge stepped it up a notch with a mod that complimented the comfort and functionality of the existing chair, addressing each element of the design as components that could be added or interchanged at anytime. It’s not only a thoughtful design, but one that was brilliantly conceptualized using ZBrush 3D modeling and sculpting software and taken into KeyShot for the complete 3D rendered images.


“A very good friend and designer said, ‘Greg you should enter this GrabCAD design Challenge.’ GrabCAD initiates many design challenges but this one was different. This one was called, ‘ModVic Steampunk Wheelchair (pro bono)’–how could I not enter?”

Why a Steampunk wheelchair

Kyron loves steampunk design and wanted his wheelchair to reflect his unique style and, in addition, to help start conversations with others. There’s little doubt, Kyron will be the coolest kid on the block with this.

After Greg learned the back story on the challenge he thought, “OK. I’m in. Let’s get after this and have some fun.” The GrabCAD community is pretty awesome, and with an international community of engineers, designers and creatives from every possible work background you can think of, competing was a bit intimidating for Greg at first, but something he quickly got past to start constructing the design.

Step-by-step Steampunk

The project needed to maintain a set of certain requirements, using the existing chair among them with no 3D model of the wheelchair available. Greg took the first step.

“As with any project, I read the brief and re-read the brief. This is one very important step to ensure everything is taken into consideration before starting to sketch or model. Staying within their guidelines helps with the fabrication of the wheelchair to be modified.”

“The next step is to get plenty of reference material for inspiration, in this case Steampunk designs from every source I could find. There is a bit of exploration time spent before I modeled the basic components of Kyron’s wheelchair–this will be the foundation I add the steampunk-ified elements to.”

‘For modeling, I used Zbrush. It gives me a very fast and fluid work flow. The hard surface modeling features is something I’m spending more time with lately. It’s very cool. I learned a bunch when modeling this one as this model is probably the most complex I’ve completed using Zbrush. Looking forward to pushing forward on more projects with it.”


Greg’s Entry

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SteamPunk Wheelchair for Kyron

“What an honor to have receive 1st place. To be apart of this challenge was awesome, I really wanted to help Kyron by providing a inspirational design to draw from for his modified Steampunk wheelchair.”

– Greg Hurley

This wheelchair design is totally awesome! It does not change the functionality and comfort of the original chair, but adds the Victorian elements that bring the chair to another level visual appeal. Colors and materials are amazing and true to Steampunk. Looks like pieces/components can be removed to put on new wheelchair in the future. Some things to work on: the Joystick is too large/heavy; the original joystick (sadly) can’t be changed much; arm rests look great but also unable to be alter too much for ease of use.

– ModVic, Kyron, GrabCAD & Community Advisors

For rendering from ZBrush to KeyShot, Greg tool of choice is KeyShot. “As far as rendering and animation, I prefer to use KeyShot. I’ve used it since the beginning with so many great updates over the years that just makes it a power house for rendering and animation. One of my favorites features is the control over lighting–being able to modify it for each shot, save cameras and scenes and locking cameras down is huge for repeat work–such great features in Keyshot. I also like how I can create a scene with all the materials, lighting, models and package it up as a compressed KeyShot file (.ksp) to save all elements of the project in one tidy file. Brilliant! For me Keyshot is simply as good as it gets… Well, until their next update. “

Visit greg-hurley.com to learn more about Greg and see his work.


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