CRT Technology Showcase

Sunrise Medical Nitrum: Evolution Meets Revolution

QuickieUltralightweight wheelchairs are known for their exactitude. Every ounce of weight or every quarter inch of adjustment can have a big impact when the engine powering a wheelchair is the human body.

Sunrise Medical’s new Nitrum wheelchair is an evolution of tried-and-true QUICKIE ultralightweight engineering. But in other ways, it displays rather revolutionary improvements for active ultralight users.

Taking Its Place in the QUICKIE Lineup

In explaining the Nitrum’s pedigree, Jesus Ibarra, Sunrise’s Product Manager/Adult Manual, noted the brand’s venerable history: “QUICKIE really represents a long tradition of manual wheelchairs. We’ve got more than 30 years now: We research, we listen, we always try to deliver superior-quality products to the market.”

For the rigid Nitrum, Ibarra added, QUICKIE built on past successes while also expecting Nitrum to set a higher bar. “We took the best of everything about our older products, and the voice of the customer, and we combined them,” Ibarra said. “That’s the Nitrum: lightest in class, a lot of user innovations like a one-arm fold mechanism, and a new patented caster mechanism.”

The Nitrum, which will obsolete the QUICKIE Q7 and QR7, was launched in Europe prior to being launched in December in the United States.

“The basis of most of these design innovations was feedback from wheelchair users,” Ibarra noted. “Our Global Product Management team are both wheelchair users, so all those little adjustments, those little things that people say they would like to have, come from people actually riding these chairs.”

Improving Transportability in Multiple Ways

Inevitably, one of the first questions about any ultralight chair is transport weight. Nitrum weighs 10.8 lbs., or 9.7 lbs. without wheel locks. The standard configuration weight, including wheels, is 18.3 lbs.

Ibarra acknowledged that less weight to propel is always significant, but he also sees weight as important to the transport process. “If I can save somebody two to three seconds when folding their chair or removing their wheels or transferring in and out of their car, that’s just part of our original intent of improving people’s lives,” he said. “To come up with even a lighter aluminum solution, we had to look elsewhere.”

That meant seeking new possibilities from new materials. “We started with 7000 series [aluminum] and ShapeLoc technology with the original Q7,” Ibarra said. “We upgraded a little bit with 7R. But we had to come up with something totally different for the Nitrum, and that’s why we dove into the next generation of 7000 series aluminum. The 7020 series aluminum has given us extra strength, and that thin wall of aluminum can still give us the strength that we need for efficient propulsion.”

The Translation to Functionality

For Angie Kiger, M.Ed, CTRS, ATP/SMS, Clinical Strategy & Education Manager for Sunrise Medical, the success of a new ultralightweight wheelchair comes down to how it will improve a client’s function.

The customer demographic for Nitrum, Kiger said, is “your high-end, dialed-in sort of user. Not that a new user couldn’t use this chair, but this is really for that person who is super active, super busy, always on the go, and wants that ultralightweight feel, wants the rigidity of it.”

Among Kiger’s favorite features is Nitrum’s new one-handed Twist-Lock system: Grab the bar, twist it to release its position, then fold the backrest down for transport. “The nice thing about the Twist-Lock is you can do that with one hand: You literally just twist and have it fold down,” Kiger said. “And it gives you a nice robust area to get a good grip on the chair when you’re doing transfers. Look at the different folding mechanisms for the back now. It’s really designed so somebody can easily transfer out of their vehicle a lot faster, a lot easier, whether you’re using the solid bar foldback or the Twist-Lock.”

Kiger is also a fan of Nitrum’s patented caster system: “You can make three different kinds of adjustments, so you can dial it in exactly the way you want it.”

“With this new patented caster mechanism, you now have easy access to make those casters perpendicular to the floor to eliminate floaters,” Ibarra said. “The new design also gives you the option to adjust inward or outward if necessary. If you want to set up extreme camber, the caster mechanism would allow you to do that. And the last thing is height adjustment: You can move the entire stem either up or down for fine-tuning to make sure all four points of the wheelchair are level.”

“One of my good friends is known at her high-end facility as the Quarter-Inch Queen,” Kiger said, “because to her, a quarter-inch matters — those little things that you can do to get those casters set up just right.”

Visualizing Clients in a Nitrum

While the Twist-Lock back, caster adjustment options, and new LED lights embedded in the frame are Nitrum’s most visible features, one of the most helpful from an assessment perspective is the 3D Visualizer. This online tool enables consumers, clinicians and ATPs to spec out a Nitrum and see the effects of their selections.

“I think it’s perfect for current social distancing,” Ibarra said of the ability to see a configured Nitrum from the safety of home or home office. Kiger added, “It’s very educational too, because sometimes people will say, ‘I want to [sit] at 90°.’ And we can say, ‘Let me show you what that’s going to look like.’ It is an educational tool for therapists and the ATP to go over with the end user. They can literally see how the angles of the lower-extremity supports change or the frame angle changes or the bend changes within that tool.”

An Augmented Reality feature can display a newly configured Nitrum in a consumer’s bedroom or hallway, giving clients and their seating teams an advance look at how QUICKIE’s latest ultralight rigid will look at home.

“It’s all about the reliability of our products,” Ibarra said of Nitrum’s debut. “At the end of the day, if I can [lose] a couple of pounds, that’s nothing if I don’t have a good-rolling chair that can pass the enormous amount of testing we do to make sure we have a quality product.

“As times progress and we continue to learn about other materials and manufacturing processes, we have to take that next step about what we can do with our designs from a wheelchair standpoint.”

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of Mobility Management.

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