A business supported by Innovate UK has designed a wheelchair with suspension that aims to improve the comfort of users across the globe.
A £24,000 Innovate UK grant in 2013 helped the firm to develop the loopwheel for wheelchairs, and a further £240,000 grant in 2017 allowed them to partner with other companies.
Wife-and-husband design and manufacturing business, Jelly Products, said the loopwheel aims to make life better and more comfortable for wheelchair-users.
Traditional spokes have been replaced with a new design that integrates suspension into the wheel and makes for a smoother passage over uneven surfaces.
Co-founder and managing director Gemma Pearce said: “Loopwheels reduce vibration by up to 70% compared to a spoked wheel so the amount of vibration transferred into the person in the chair is significantly reduced.”
Adding: “There is a lot of research to show that ‘whole body vibration’ is associated with fatigue and lower back pain, increased spasticity (muscle contraction), and an increase in pressure sores and has an impact on bladder control.”
Traditional wheelchair spokes have been replaced with a design that integrates suspension for smoother passage over uneven surfaces.
The spokes have been replaced by a new interior that makes it easier to go over uneven or bumpy ground and removes vibration.
Innovative design means the wheel has a stiff structure but an element of compression. The springs within the wheel are made of a carbon composite material.
Gemma added: “People have tried to make a wheel with suspension before but they have never had the right combination of design and materials.”
Jelly Products, based in Newark, Nottinghamshire, first tried the wheel out on a folding bicycle, but people very soon started asking if they could be made for wheelchairs.
It is now making 100 wheels a month, and sales have grown 50% year on year.
It now has distributors across the world including in mainland Europe, Australia, Japan, Brazil and South Africa.
Gemma went on: “About 1% of the population in the developed world uses a wheelchair. We have hardly scratched the surface of that market yet. People in wheelchairs are living longer and healthier lives, they are more active at home and in the workplace, and some are using electric motors. There is a real need for loopwheels.
Concluding: “We’re growing rapidly now. We’ve got good distributors in important export markets. We plan to expand into our current market and to look at taking our technology into other areas. This could be for use in other vehicles including for lightweight electric vehicles in our congested cities.”