On the medal trail again: Paralympic athletes take home seven medals and set 4 Paralympic records using Racing Wheelchairs designed by BMW Group Designworks.

Designworks collaborated with the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field team to develop a racing wheelchair customized for world-class athletes. Tatyana McFadden, Chelsea McClammer and Susannah Scaroni took home a collective seven medals (4 gold) in addition to setting four Paralympic records and five personal records.

The Designworks team immersed themselves in the challenges of the athletes to understand criteria for winning. The outcome was a wheelchair developed using aerodynamics, lightweight materials and extensive ergonomic analysis to optimize athlete performance.

Previous chairs used aluminum tubing with a poorly-fitting cockpit, requiring athletes to shim themselves into the chairs with foam blocks and straps. Taking insights from BMW’s history in motorsport, Designworks applied custom body mold processes to optimize the fit to each athlete. This same ergonomic thinking was applied to all wheelchair touchpoints, including the steering mechanisms and technical gloves. To accomplish this level of customization, Designworks used advanced 3D scanning and 3D printing techniques to create personalized components for each athlete.

Additionally, the team drew from automotive racing and integrated material knowledge to select carbon fiber processes for the chassis. This balanced the need for a lightweight and stiff chassis with improved aerodynamic performance.

The goal: Maximize wheelchair performance  so athletes can focus on the race.

“This was perhaps one of our most intensive user-based projects”.

Brad Cracchiola, Project Leader.

The 2016 Paralympic Games marks the third collaboration between BMW, Designworks and the USOC following medal success in swimming, and bobsledding. Designworks looks forward to continuing to support athlete success!


Cues from car racing: Fitting the competitors with a custom body mold in their cockpits.

This is the fourth time Designworks has been caught up in the Olympic Spirit. Sourcing its technology and design capabilities helped to create the two-man bobsled that after a drought of 62 years accelerated Team USA to a medal at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in 2014.