CRT Technology Showcase
Ki Mobility Launches Axiom Cushion Line
- By Laurie Watanabe
- Aug 01, 2017
Your first thought upon seeing the new Axiom cushions might be So this is what happens when a venerable mobility manufacturer enters the cushion market.
Axiom G (general): More than just your average general- use seat cushion.
Ki Mobility, the manual wheelchair manufacturer based in Stevens Point, Wisc., celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2016, but its senior staff has decades of complex rehab seating and wheeled mobility experience. That experience is apparent in the introduction of Axiom.
Axiom’s launch is an intro times five. Now available are Axiom G (general use), P (positioning), S (skin protection), SP Visco (with viscoelastic foam insert) and SP Fluid (with Hydrolite fluid bladder).
The five cushions cover HCPCS codes E2601-2608, and that, of course, is intentional. Ki is fond of saying its products happen by design. Axiom cushions ascend in form and function from the generaluse cushion to cushions for skin protection and positioning. But even the G cushion achieves a number of goals, making it more complex than many general-use peers.
Axiom P (positioning): Increased contouring vs. the general-use Axiom model.
The entire Axiom line subscribes to three concepts: Surface tension reduction, pre-contouring and anthropometrics. As Ki explains it, to reduce surface tension is to increase a body’s ability to immerse in the cushion, thus improving both pressure distribution and stability. Pre-contouring — i.e., removing foam so the cushion’s shape more closely matches the shape of the user’s buttocks — can also facilitate immersion by reducing reaction forces and “push-back” that foam produces when it’s compressed by sitting. Employing anthropometrics — the human body’s measurements and proportions — helps to identify the most functional pre-contouring, even given the different body types of potential users.
The result is five cushions that build upon each other, by design.
Tom Whelan, VP of product development, said it was important for the Axiom line to be built that way.
Axiom S: Taller cells for the skin-protection cushion in this new series.
“In today’s world, ATPs and clinicians are under a lot of pressure to spend their time wisely,” Whelan noted. “And the more products they have to learn and understand, the more difficult their job becomes. So if we’re going to enter this market, we wanted to enter it in a way that makes it easier for them, not harder. The more disparate the design characteristics in a product, the more complex it is to apply them, and our focus is our customers.”
Designing the cushions as a group also enabled Ki to benefit from production volume, which allowed Ki engineers to use more complex design elements.
“Because there are common design elements and materials throughout the line, there’s an efficiency that allows you to provide more efficacy, but still do so at a very competitive price, which is important in the marketplace,” he said.
Axiom SP Visco: Viscoelastic foam and a dual-layer foam base.
Whelan said Ki also wanted higher-quality materials: “We’re dedicated to being a highly effective organization, so we can have a little more cost in our materials. We’re paying more to get a better piece of foam, a higher-density, greater-resilience, smaller-cell construction foam. But designing in the shape of the foam doesn’t really add cost other than the cost of tooling. Once you pay for those costs, and we’re highly effective at that, we can do it without adding real cost to the cushion.”
Meet the Fab Five
Axiom G, P and S start with hexagonal foam shapes of varying heights — taller cells, for example in the skin-protection “S” cushion. The G, P and S have a single cover to reduce surface tension and maximize immersion.
The SP Visco uses a dual-density polyurethane foam base (firmer lower layer + comfortable top layer) and a viscoelastic foam insert. A “horseshoe” design around the sitting well reduces the layers of cover fabric between the user and the cushion; a pleated, four-way stretch inner cover has a selfsealing zipper.
Axiom SP Fluid: A dual-layer foam base plus a non-Newtonian fluid insert to lower the wheelchair user’s shear risk.
The SP Fluid uses that same dual-density foam base and horseshoe outer cover shape over a Hydrolite fluid bladder that sits atop a waterproof inner cover, again to reduce surface tension and maximize envelopment. Fluid, Whelan pointed out, displaces rather than compresses — and Hydrolite is a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning it has different viscocities when under stress. It acts like a solid under gravity, but flows like a fluid when under load, which can minimize shear.
“Where we are adding real cost is in the cover,” Whelan said. “A water-resistant zipper with a really nice pull costs more than an off-the-shelf, not-so-good zipper. Fully banded construction costs more than darting the cover material in the corners and sewing it to a non-skid base. Putting the strap on the general-purpose cushion with the carabiner hooks costs more. But we did get the advantage of taking the highest-volume product and using that volume to spread out the material cost. By using common materials over everything, I can design materials and use higher-quality materials because I get effective volume.”
Even the general-use cushion has a high-quality zipper pull, a handle and utility loops for car keys.
Ki Mobility put engineering time and money into Axiom details, such as zippers and a high-quality zipper pull that’s easier to use for consumers with limited dexterity.
“It’s a give-back to the general-use user that makes good business sense as well as good design sense,” Whelan said.
Where Axiom Goes from Here
Even with five Axiom cushions, there are still unfulfilled HCPCS codes — namely the adjustable ones. Whelan didn’t give a timeline of what happens next, but he acknowledged that Ki is serious about the seating niche.
“A lot of cushion sales is missionary work,” he said. “It’s people representing an opinion; there are no Ki Mobility put engineering time and money into Axiom details, such as zippers and a high-quality zipper pull that’s easier to use for consumers with limited dexterity. absolutes. But what you can do is base it in science and be consistent. That’s an advantage we have: We’re not conflicted by our history. We got to start with a clean slate, and that’s easier than companies that have a big investment in a product line and its tooling and then learn how to do it better, but can’t go backwards. We get the benefit of starting here and going forward.
“Entering the seating segment means we’re entering the seating segment. We want to bring innovation and quality and consistency to the entire segment. Our plan is to continue to develop products and innovate.”
Axiom at present is concentrating on adult sizing; widths and depths start at 14". “Pediatrics are an entirely different development,” Whelan said. “The needs are different, the anthropometrics are different.”
So Ki’s entrance to seating starts here, though there’s much more to anticipate.
“One of things I’m grateful for at Ki Mobility is that we realize there are constant opportunities to improve, to make better products,” Whelan said. “We want to maintain that focus on the products, as well as on the business and the economics. That’s the other reason the cushions all got done together: Doing them all together in some ways allows us to do more. But Ki never stops. We’re never done.”
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Mobility Management.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at email@example.com.