In general, the two most popular materials used in the production of wheelchairs are titanium and aluminum. A titanium wheelchair has a reputation for being the better option because it is lightweight, strong, and it does not rust or corrode. Yet a titanium wheelchair is far more expensive than an aluminum one, and it is not as easy to weld due to the thinness of the frames.
It may come as a surprise to note titanium is actually more dense than aluminum and therefore heavier. Yet because it is stronger than aluminum, less of it is required to make the wheelchair, so the end result is a lighter product. This could be about to change in the near future, however, as manufacturing techniques are evolving which allow companies to work with aluminum in a different way to what was previously the norm.
Titanium is one of the best metals available in terms of strength-to-weight ratio. This means that titanium wheelchairs are easier to maintain and perhaps the most durable money can buy. Titanium also does not suffer from "work fatigue" which is the process of a metal or material becoming fragile over time.
Titanium wheelchairs can last indefinitely, at least in theory, because of their strength and the fact that the metal does not corrode. It is therefore unnecessary to use paint on the wheelchair as titanium does not need to be protected from the elements. This also makes it easy to keep a titanium wheelchair clean and new looking. Should it be scratched, all that is needed is a quick rub with the same type of scrubs used to clean cutlery.
For all its advantages, a titanium wheelchair has certain negative aspects. The most obvious one is the cost. Titanium is a relatively rare metal in comparison to aluminum. The cost per rod of titanium is over 30 times that of aluminum, and this puts a titanium wheelchair out of the reach of most people in financial terms.
A titanium wheelchair is also not the most comfortable option for those who suffer from extreme body discomfort; it moves and twists which can cause pain for the occupant of the wheelchair. Aluminum is generally preferable since a wheelchair’s frame should be rigid. A titanium wheelchair also does not handle as well as its aluminum counterpart; those who compete in the Paralympics seldom, for example, choose a wheelchair made from titanium for this reason.