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Yes, we know that looks like a steel frame with a name tag on it, but we are really excited about the latest addition to the Free Wheelchair Mission team.

Bessie is an industrial drum tester and the newest member of our R&D department. Thanks to Chancellor Drake, Professor Ken Mease,Dr. John Garman, and the Summer 2012 EDI Team for their invaluable support as well as and the Departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC-Irvine, Bessie is going to help us research the durability and functionality of our wheels! We are constantly looking for ways to improve our wheelchair designs so that they can be as durable as possible for our users. One of the ways we are looking to do this is to see if moving from pneumatic tires to polyurethane tires can eliminate the need for pumps and patch kits, without affecting the quality of the wheelchairs. A change would make flat tires a non-issue, but we have to make sure  the polyurethane tires can stand up to the rigors of life in the developing world. Bessie can help us do just that.

The three surfaces Bessie tests our tires over: steel mesh, smooth, and sandpaper.

Bessie can run tires under load over three surfaces at a continuous RPM for as long as we need to get solid data on durability. Both the current inflatable tire we use and the polyurethane design we’re looking into can be run concurrently over a smooth surface which acts as a control group, as well as steel mesh and sand paper which simulate rougher terrain. What results is a great qualitative analysis of the tires side-by-side to see which one, if either, outlasts the other. In a matter of a few days we can simulate years of use in the developing world and know how to proceed. We’ll keep you posted on the process as it continues to play out, but we hope you’ve enjoyed this look into our process and how we’re always on the look out for ways to keep our products efficient as possible for the people we serve.

We’d like to offer a special thank you to Chancellor Drake, Professor Ken Mease, Dr. John Garman, Chima Awuchi, Chano Kim, Brian Pontius, Gregory Greene, Vincent Vendiola, Arturo Arroyo, and Fang-Ming Lin as well as UCI Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering for all of their help and continued partnership with us–thank you!

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