Fully composite white cane improves mobility of the visually impaired | World of Composites

2021-12-08 06:29:01 By : Mr. Jackson Yang

The carbon fiber composite material design provides light weight, ergonomics and rigidity, which can realize safer and easier-to-operate mobile solutions. #医疗#Apps

The IO carbon fiber white cane developed by Whitecane and produced in collaboration with Refitech and CG Tec is extremely lightweight, making the cane easy to handle, reducing the risk of fatigue and injury, and improving sensory perception. Image source: Whitecane

Whitecane (Dudestadt, Germany) is a company with the goal of designing and developing technologically advanced and high-quality medical products, focusing on equipment for the visually impaired. With the support of composite engineering and production experts Refitech Composite Components (Walwijk, Netherlands) and partner CG Tec GmbH (Spat, Germany), Whitecane developed and launched IO, an innovative white cane with weight Lightweight, easy-to-operate composite tube structure and ergonomic carbon fiber grip.

According to Bas Nijpels, a sales engineer at Refitech, this collaboration began in 2018. “When we purchased carbon tubes for our first prototype from the CG Tec online store, the collaboration began,” adds Lüder Mosler of Whitecane. When Whitecane started looking for partners to design carbon fiber grips for canes, CG Tec, which established a strategic partnership with Refitech in 2018, recommended Refitech. "Both companies have shown great willingness to respond to our very specific technical and economic requirements, and work together to find good solutions," Mosler said. "This has resulted in a highly innovative carbon fiber white cane unmatched in the current market."

CG Tec provides carbon fiber/epoxy resin prepreg tubes, which are manufactured in a semi-automatic process where prepregs are wound on a mandrel, and the canes are assembled in batches at its Spalt factory. “In the first conversation, I introduced the idea and background of the IO White Cane, which immediately aroused our enthusiasm,” said Oliver Kipf, CEO of CG Tec. "According to Whitecane's requirements, we first developed a carbon fiber tube that can withstand the expected pressure load and has high bending stiffness. Strict tolerances are a challenge, but we finally solved this problem." Nijpels explained that compared to standard walking sticks, It has greater rigidity and can provide users with a firmer contact and a better experience and feel. 

Nijpels said that in addition to stiffness, Whitecane's two highest requirements for design are ease of assembly and consumer affordability. “Our engineers worked closely with Whitecane and CG Tec on the design, provided suggestions and held regular meetings to discuss project progress,” Nijpels said. 

Nijpels said that for carbon fiber grips, Refitech needs to develop a "mirror" design that can be made for right-handed users and left-handed users. For this project, the company used its experience in designing similar products for medical and consumer applications, such as the carbon fiber guide dog handle that was shortlisted for the JEC 2019 Innovation Awards finals. The white rattan handle is made of twill weave carbon fiber/epoxy prepreg and is covered with an additional layer of unidirectional (UD) fabric. These parts are manufactured through a blow molding process and then autoclaved curing. Nijpels said: "This allows us to manufacture lightweight thin-walled parts, allowing us to mass-produce at a reasonable cost."

The handle is connected to the rest of the cane through a specially designed bracket. The design also has a lightweight rolling tip and a patented yield mechanism that can fold the cane immediately when colliding with an obstacle, thereby reducing the risk of injury due to collision. The IO can also be folded into three sections for easy transportation and storage.

"This application clearly demonstrates the potential benefits that 3D formed carbon parts can bring: the use of innovative material design and production of the overall solution to ensure an immediate competitive advantage in the competition," Nijpels said.

Whitecane launched IO to the German medical market in early 2020. The next steps include expanding the certification of the product in other countries and expanding IO's distribution network with other partners. In the next few years, Whitecane also plans to expand the production scale of its products, from the current 100 parts per batch to 700 parts per batch.

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