28 March 2023


FreeWheel – “Lifecycle-reconfigurable Smart Mobility Platform to enable autonomous and cost-effective personalized solutions for social inclusion of disabled and elderly while leveraging Additive Manufacturing technologies” is a research project financed under the European Union research and innovation funding programme “Horizon 2020”, within the topic “New technologies and life cycle management for reconfigurable and reusable customised products”  (call Factories of the Future FoF 10-2017)

FreeWheel promotes social inclusion of disabled and elderly people through a urban mobility solution consisting of:

  • a unit integrating an autonomous “smart active” module,
  • multiple custom interfaces and
  • a mobility app.

The project exploits the high degree of flexibility of design and production of components allowed by additive manufacturing technologies to deliver a mobility unit that adds a motorisation to manual wheelchairs and/or a fully customised wheelchair. These support the users in moving around more easily and autonomously. The unit can be rented for temporary use e.g. in shopping malls and in tourist areas, and it is adapted to the surrounding environment so to allow the user to enjoy fully the location. An app supports the use of this unit through facilities for booking it, controlling it and even planning the journey, amongst other features. A co-creation approach ensures that the features of the solution are designed with the needs and expectations of the end users in mind.



FREEWHEEL Objectives

FreeWheel general objectives are to:

  • Promote social inclusion of disabled and elderly by developing a smart mobility platform based on a reconfigurable autonomous unit to ease individual mobility in urban environment. The versatility of FreeWheel solution allows to compensate for the presence of physical barriers, helping to extend the degree of access to context and autonomy of the person with disability in an increasing number of environments.
  • Satisfy the need of customization both for the disabled and for the unit by implementing a modular reconfigurable concept based on standard low-cost modules and on ultra-customized interfaces to be produced by additive manufacturing. Modularity is achieved by using low cost standard modules (engine, gears, control unit, HMI, etc.) and highly customized interface (body to unit, engine to unit, unit to infrastructure, etc.); reconfigurability is obtained by allowing an easy re-use of standard modules in different products (e.g. same electrification module in different unit fleets, differently customized to the surrounding environment).
  • Make affordable the lifecycle cost of the mobility service/product by implementing an innovative business model that (1) offers the mobility as a service separating the use from the ownership of the units, (2) leverages manufacturing dematerialization to reduce lead time and investment cost, in particular Additive Manufacturing technologies to reduce the cost of person-to-unit personalization and unit-to-infrastructure customization , (3) shares investment, cost and revenues amongst all relevant stakeholders along the mobility value chain: disabled, urban centre, infrastructure owners,vehicle integrators, service providers, components suppliers, Additive Manufacturing centres. (4) leverages product reconfigurability, achieved thanks to product  modularity, to cover large production volumes through the sum of small batches of highly customised products whose configuration is supported by a co-engineering digital platform, involving players belonging to the entire supply chain, (5) extends the lifecycle of product by re-use, re-manufacturing and possible upgrade of components.


The expected impacts are:

  • Social inclusion of disabled: the project will demonstrate affordable accessibility in urban areas thus ensuring universal access to safe and inclusive public spaces.
  • Short time to market: a new customized fleet of personalized units and the related mobility service can be offered and developed in less than 12 weeks starting from the modular concept developed at the end of the project. This equates to a 70% shorter lead time than conventional approaches.
  • Significant cost reduction of the manufacturing and integration of unit components: the cost of the FreeWheel Smart Active System and even the custom wheelchair are kept low comparing with state of the art products with same functionality. This can be achieved thanks to lead time and investment reduction allowed by modularity and additive manufacturing technologies. Savings of overall products/services life cycle costs by 50% as a consequence of the reusability and re-adaptability of the components of the personalised products.
  • Ultra low environmental impact: re-usability of modules and efficient manufacturing lead to more than 70% environmental impact reduction in terms of primary resources consumed to offer this mobility service.


FreeWheel will deliver as project results:

  • A new TRL6 product, the autonomous individual unit.
  • A new TRL6 ICT mobility platform accessible through smartphone.
  • Two product/service DEMOs: in a shopping centre and at a tourist/cultural site to demonstrate the functionalities of the product.
  • A manufacturing DEMO to demonstrate the use of Additive Manufacturing technologies along the product lifecycle (beginning of life and middle of life) integrating innovative additive manufacturing based processes with traditional metalworking as well as various materials from ultra-light smart materials to composites. In this demo, innovative machinery developed at TRL5-6 in past and running projects (e.g. BOREALIS) will be tested to exploit their potential in further application.


In order to guarantee the achievement of FreeWheel objectives, the work plan over the three years of the project is organized in 9 work packages clustered in:

    • Project Management, through WP1
    • Scientific and Technical, Demonstration: 
      • WP2 profiles the reference scenario for the User Centred FreeWheel integrated solution, thus generating the functional, behavioural and social requirements that constitute the basis for the following workpackages.
      • WP3 deals with FreeWheel product design
      • WP4 focuses on the design of the FreeWheel service and digital tools
      • WP5 addresses the manufacturing technologies and design of the process to produce the FreeWheel modules.
      • WP6 details the design and configuration of the production infrastructure (machines, robots and systems) supporting the manufacturing of the FreeWheel modules.
      • WP7 focuses on the integration and lifecycle distributed management and optimization for the FreeWheel comprehensive solution.
    • Dissemination and Exploitation activities.
      • WP8 deals with the installation, configuration and demonstration of the FreeWheel system in two real-life context scenarios.
      • WP9 covers dissemination and exploitation activities for boosting the adoption of FreeWheel solution in future smart mobility initiatives.

    Official data

    Project reference: 768908
    Call for proposals: H2020 – FOF-10-2017
    Start: 01 October, 2017
    End: 31 December, 2020
    Project duration: 39 months

    Project Coordinator: Manuel Lai (IRIS)
    Scientific and Industrial Quality Coordinator: Tiziano Luccarelli (Keen Bull)
    Scientific and Technical Coordinator: Anna Valente (SUPSI)
    Industrial Coordinator: Matteo Astori (MCH)

    Ethics: FreeWheel team will work in permanent respect of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. This statement will be continuously guaranteed, in conformity to existing legislation and regulations, over the project life

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