IGAN has developed a go-anywhere mobility vehicle (MV) that is sufficiently compact to fit through doorways and corridors in a standard house, can be easily transported in an estate car, and can safely climb and traverse uneven ground and staircases of up to 40 degrees, with the operator always facing forward.
The story so far:
The original brief for a tracked wheelchair was set up between two Johnians, Chris Mack and John Ross, who both read Mechanical Sciences in 1961. The wheelchair was required to go over obstacles and climb stairs in a house, moving the seat to keep the user upright. It would also lift the user up to be able to converse more equally with others, rather than being “talked down to”.
After the brief had been settled, John took over the practicalities of design, manufacture and development of the prototype and, with much needed help from colleagues, has nursed the project through to the present stage.
The initial design work on the stair-climbing wheelchair showed promise and, with support from a colleague, Alan Sykes, a small company was set up in 2016 on a voluntary basis to design and prove the concept. Some assistance was obtained via government grants (SEIS support and R&D tax relief) but the majority of the cost has been met by the four shareholders.
The aim of the project was to enable disabled users to regain some of the freedom which they had lost. The wheelchair was to suit normal domestic situations including doors and doorsteps, as well as climbing and descending stairs. The desired features also included an ability to tackle difficult terrain, raise the user to match the eye-level of a standing person and be able to be carried in a hatch-back car or small van.
As would be expected, the inevitable pitfalls were encountered along the way: not least of these was the sourcing of the two main drive motors. During the trials, considerable benefit was found in being able to control the position of seat - and thus the centre of gravity of the vehicle - to improve its operation. The design of the tracks also needed several iterations to reach the chosen design. Although much of the work has been mechanical and electrical, the control aspects were the most difficult, or interesting, depending on your mind set.
Where the project is at:
At this stage, a working prototype has been completed and can be demonstrated as a value proposition to the existing mobility vehicle market. With around 10 million wheelchair users in Europe, it is clear a large market exists for such vehicles and the MV targets the top end of the market due to its high-tech features, for which a patent has been received.
The prototype has been tested by both young and elderly users, to assess its usability and has been well received by both for its ease of use and ‘cool’ appearance.
The shareholders are now seeking to capitalise on the work by selling the entire concept to an organisation that is able to make it into a commercial success. This is to include the patent which has recently been granted to the company, IGAN, covering many aspects of the design.
More details will be found on the website: www.igan.co.uk