Rowheel wheelchair is pulled to move forward

October 8, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

( -- Wheelchairs have a basic problem because the occupant must push the wheels forward to turn the chair’s wheels, but this action is physically stressful on the anterior deltoid muscles in the shoulder and the triceps and flexor carpi muscles in the arms. Using these smaller and relatively weak muscles can result in muscle and joint pain and degredation, torn rotor cuffs, repetitive stress injury, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Now a new wheelchair, the Rowheel System, uses the much more natural pulling (rowing) motion to move the chair forward.

Using a pulling motion transfers the loads to the stronger muscles of the upper back, the biceps in the arms, and posterior deltoids in the shoulders, which increases the occupant’s range and endurance and reduces the chance of stress injuries.

The system, invented by Salim Nasser of Merritt Island, Florida, uses a planetary gear system in the center of the that converts the pulling movement of the wheelchair occupant into a forward movement of the chair. The planet carrier motion is attached to the chair frame and a ring gear is attached to the wheel hub fixed in the wheel via spokes. When the occupant pulls the standard rim, which is connected to the planetary system sun gear, the planet gears are engaged, and they in turn engage the ring gear fixed to the wheel hub. The bearings fixed to the inner and outer hub plates have a large bore and small cross-section to allow relative motion between the plates and the hub casings.

Nasser developed the wheelchair design as a university project during his time as a student at the Florida International University. Over a four-month period he constructed a working prototype from standard third-party tires, spokes, rims and bearings. The gear system and hubs were specially constructed.

The Rowheel system can be fitted to any standard manual wheelchair without modifications to the frame, and is easy and quick to dismantle for wheelchair portability. It looks similar to standard manual wheelchairs. Nasser said a commercial version would use a carbon fiber material for the hub, spoke and wheel rim assembly for lower weight and ease of assembly and dismantling.

The design won Nasser the $20,000 grand prize in the Create the Future Design Contest run by the publishers of the NASA Tech Briefs magazine. The annual contest attracts around a thousand product designs from over 50 countries.

Nasser is now a NASA engineer working at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He is a wheelchair user himself, and like 75 percent of people using wheelchairs, relies on a manual .

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5 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2010
Bravo !!
not rated yet Oct 08, 2010
How come some wheelchairs don't have some kind of gearing mechanism to make pushing them easier?
Especially racing wheelchairs, surely they could go much faster much easier then, just like on a bicycle.
No idea in terms of how or the design though.
5 / 5 (1) Oct 08, 2010
"How come some wheelchairs don't have some kind of gearing mechanism to make pushing them easier?"

probably because it's not a mass market. it's similar to orphan diseases where research is almost inexistent.
3 / 5 (2) Oct 08, 2010
This needs videos.
not rated yet Oct 08, 2010
I suspect that if these chairs become popular with the wheelchair racing crowd, we will soon see all kinds of modifications including gears.
not rated yet Oct 08, 2010
As is often the case with inventions, it's the users of old tech that have the time and determination to think how this tech can be made better. If someone wants to make further advance in power efficiency of mechanical wheelchair for long distance travel or racing, maybe they could benefit from tech similar to what is used in stringbike .
not rated yet Oct 10, 2010
Instead of pulling on the wheel, why not attach ratcheted levers to promote more of a rowing effort for locomotion? This should further diminish stress injuries to wrists and such.

Any suggestions?

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