Thomas Renner, Catalyst Marketing Communications
When engineers at SoftWheel set about re-inventing the wheel, the team at the Israel-based company studied their product from the inside out. The result is a much smoother ride for wheelchair patients, with applications for bicycles, automobiles and even planes on the long-term horizon.
The technology behind SoftWheels for wheelchair patients aims to have the wheel absorb vibrations and bumps, instead of the rider’s body. The goal was to provide a more stable and secure ride with an innovative suspension system inside of a rigid rim and centered around the wheel hub. In a spoke-and-hub wheel fitted with traditional shock absorbers, obstacles exert forces that cause vibration to the frame and the rider’s body and decrease forward momentum.
By contrast, SoftWheel features three suspension arms inside the wheel rim provide the primary shock absorption qualities of SoftWheels. The arms are built inside the wheel rim, equidistant around a central hub, and they can absorb shock from any direction.
SoftWheel’s In-wheel Suspension technology leads to Adaptive Rigidity when encountering obstacles. The suspension arms remain rigid and strong, but automatically compress to absorb the shock. The wheels reset quickly, absorbing almost all of the shock. With its Rapid Shock-Reset, the suspension arms are ready to go after one-third of a turn.
The technology is demonstrated in a video of a drop test compared to a common wheel. In a drop of 15 centimeters with 110 pounds of weight, the common wheel returns to a stable position in 10 seconds. The SoftWheel takes just two seconds to become stable.
The final component of the technology is the Single-piece Rigid Rims. Rigid and strong, the rims offer as much stability and as fast a ride as the highest-quality regular rims on the market.
Plastic components provided by Igus, a manufacturer based in Germany with a presence in Providence, R.I., help SoftWheels achieve its shock absorption. SoftWheels include Igus’ L280 bushings, which provide wear resistance in harsh environments or when used with rough shafts. The bushing, called “The Marathon Runner,” is frequently used when low coefficients of dynamic friction and wear resistance are essential. The bushing also boast a high service life.
The bushings are installed in the triangular component of the wheels. The triangle piece connects to the cylinders. The bushing’s compressive strength of 8,847 psi and tensile strength of 18,130 at 68 degrees Fahrenheit help the SoftWheels provide their signature stability.
SoftWheel’s technology works because it focuses on the rim and suspension of the wheel instead of the chair. The in-wheel suspension activates only when needed, and enables the wheel to act as a rigid wheel over flat surfaces, thereby conserving a rider’s energy and maintaining forward momentum (and reducing bounce on flat surfaces). It activates and acts as shock absorbers when the wheelchair encounters an obstacle or rough terrain, thereby reducing shocks and vibrations.
Thomas Renner, who is based in Connecticut, writes frequently on manufacturing, construction and other trade industry topics for U.S. trade publications.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are the author’s only and do not necessarily reflect those of MedicalDesignandOutsourcing.com or its employees.