A Plymouth manufacturer is playing a key role in helping develop a new seating system for wheelchairs that improves function and corrects body posture.
Source Engineering, a specialist in pressed and machined components, has supported wheelchair seating specialist Matrix Seating with a complex stamped part that acts as a locking clamp for the unique micro modules that are shaped to deliver customised support.
A 5-strong engineering team has worked with inventor Dr Steve Cousins to come up with a 11-stage progression tool capable of producing the ‘lock’ in spring steel – vital for delivering strength and flexibility at a unit price that works.
To date, 120,000 of the components have already been manufactured and delivered, with an increase in sales from the UK, Europe, the Middle East and the US set to result in a surge in volumes.
“This is a really exciting project to be involved in and we are delighted to be able to use our design and manufacturing expertise to help people enjoy a longer and better standard of life,” explained Pablo Gutierrez, Technical Director at Source Engineering.
“Steve approached us about coming up with a stamped metal part to replace what was previously a plastic and then hybrid component. He’d been to a number of other suppliers, but we were the only one prepared to invest the design time in trying to come up with a solution that worked.”
He continued: “There was a lot to consider. We had to deliver a critically strong part that still allowed the system, which looks like a robust mesh and is fitted in place of the usual wheelchair back, to move to deliver the potential orthotic spinal correction.
“Initially, it was deemed to be just one part for the locking clamp, but after a number of prototypes and iterations we found that it was best to manufacture two components – a top and a bottom that would be connected with a bolt. Tolerances were really tight and also had to meet clinical specification.”
(l-r) Pablo Gutierrez, Andrea Taylor and Ian Matthews (all Source Engineering). Image courtesy of Source Engineering
Source Engineering has a long track record of taking projects from design and prototyping to volume production and this experience really came to the fore with this opportunity.
The 11-stage progression tool has been proven to deliver both parts successfully, with the firm’s wire erosion capabilities producing an accurate tooling insert that fits like a jigsaw to create the different circular and hex-shaped holes.
Repeatable quality has been outstanding and stringent lead times have been met on the initial orders allowing Matrix Seating to fulfil current orders.
Dr Steve Cousins, who spent 19 years at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability before founding the company, continued: “This is the fourth generation of locking clamp that holds our unique structure together and I believe we’ve found the long-term solution.
“Our manufacturing is all completed in the UK and Source Engineering is a very welcome addition to our supply chain, understanding the potential of our product and going above and beyond to deliver parts that have come through a tough engineering challenge.
“What was especially impressive was the ability to create parts that have a sharp edge in just the right place, so they dig into the nylon ball in the middle of the module. This was very technical and had to serve its main role, as well as not being exposed to the user of the chair.”
He concluded: “We feel that we finally have the right locking clamp and look forward to moving forward with Pablo and his team.”
Source Engineering, which is approaching 30 years in business in 2021, employs 32 people across its two divisions on the Langage Business Park.
Investment in a new high-speed press line from Bruderer UK has given it additional capacity to secure reshoring contracts from abroad and support its desire to increase annual sales by 20% over the next twelve months.
Interested in innovation? This year’s Smart Factory Expo, including the Made Smarter Innovation Alley and Emerging Tech Pavilion, part of Digital Manufacturing Week 2021, takes place 10-11 November at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool and is free to attend for manufacturers.