September 19, 2008 The NASA Tech Briefs Create the Future Design Contest began in 2002 as a platform for encouraging innovation in product design among engineers, entrepreneurs, and students around the globe. The 2008 competition is open until October 17, but already this year's entries have produced some very thought provoking product ideas and we'll be exploring some of the standouts in detail over coming weeks. The first cab off the rank is an attempt, in fact two attempts, to do what else but reinvent the wheel. German student Caspar Schmitz has designed a castor with an additional axis that could see your shopping trolleys glide over bumps instead of grinding to an abrupt halt. Also in Caspar's portfolio is the transformable wheel chair, an application of "the transformable wheel", a concept which allows a wheel made of flexible plastic to take on an ellipsoid shape when circumstances require a lower center-of-gravity.
The 2Axis Castor has a second axis is positioned outside of the wheel centre which is activated by momentum when the wheel of a shopping trolley or hospital gurney for example, comes in contact with an obstacle. Instead of needing to scrape breakfast cereal (or patients) off the ground, the lateral movement produced by the second axis enables the wheel to slide up and over the bump.The size of the obstacles that can be tackled would depend on the size of the wheel and the design would also incorporate shock absorbtion to lessen the effect on the load. There's a well presented overview of the design here and clearly there are countless applications if it can meet its potential.
Schmitz second entry is a wheelchair design based on the concept of a Transformable Wheel. The idea is that by using a strong but flexible plastic rim supported by a hinged bracket assembly rather than conventional spokes, the round wheel could be transformed into an ellipsoid shape by applying pressure on the handle bar and enable easier navigation of obstacles. We're not sure how this one would work in practice but its a great piece of lateral thinking... and we commend anyone who takes on the wheel.
The 2008 Create the Future Design Contest is presented by Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. and co-sponsored by COMSOL, Hewlett-Packard, and National Instruments. The contest is divided into six categories - Consumer Products, Machinery, Medical Products, Safety and Security, Sustainable Technologies and Transportation - with a Grand Prize of USD$20,000 on offer.