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Innovative Portable Traction Ramp from Smart Composite materials for Automatic Ascending and Descending of Wheelchair Users

Periodic Report Summary 2 - RAMPCO (Innovative Portable Traction Ramp from Smart Composite materials for Automatic Ascending and Descending of Wheelchair Users)

Project Context and Objectives:
The RAMPCO PROJECT concerns the design and development of an Innovative Portable Traction Ramp from Smart Composite materials for the automatic ascent and descent of Wheelchair Users. The RAMPCO PROJECT is coordinated by CYRIC - Cyprus Research and Innovation Center.
RampCo is a technologically advanced folding ramp, allowing wheelchair users to automatically ascend and descend a flight of steps, thus paving the way to universal accessibility in buildings and public spaces. RampCo has a lightweight design due to the use of materials that ensure the best strength/weight ratio. RampCo is a revolutionary product in the ramp market since no other such device exists worldwide with easy assembly and disassembly.
RampCo, on the wheelchair user’s command, transports the wheelchair safely several metres all the way up the stairs, without any assistance. RampCo operates on slopes beyond the typical 8% reaching up to 60%, allowing the wheelchair user to safely ascend a relatively high number of stairs. RampCo is designed and developed in order to provide a safe accessibility solution for wheelchair users in various staircases (straight stair steps with different length, width and/or height, made of concrete, glass, metal and ceramics).
RampCo is designed and developed in order to comply with existing standards, regulations and EU directives: EN 81-40, Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC.
RampCo is supported by cutting edge technology operating on web-based online electronic applications. Thus by using geographical location data it notifies the user of the exact geographical location of the system while at the same time it provides the ability to pre-book RampCo online in order to be used at a specific time and location. Furthermore it allows the owner to get remote access to the operating system of RampCo for monitoring and controlling purposes, by providing an instant remote access aiming to solve functional problems that might occur.
RampCo could have a massive uptake to serve a large number of cases with a difference in elevation, which are currently left inaccessible or are serviced in a poor way, with no provision for use by disabled citizens without assistance, and more often than not, with a compromise on safety or aesthetics. For example, public buildings, hotels, museums, archaeological sites, exhibition centres, industry, banks, shops, private homes, etc.

Main project objectives
- To improve competitiveness of the participating SMEs through the development and validation of a foldable and portable ramp.
- To develop detailed specifications of RampCo mechanical, electrical and electronic components and to design the foldable and portable RampCo system.
- To perform appropriate design calculations and 3D FEM analysis and to evaluate the joints and interfaces between metallic and non-metallic materials.
- To manufacture the RampCo components (traction system, composite components, and control system) based on existing standards and EU directives.
- To draw up recommendations for commercial production in consultation with SMEs.
- To develop the RampCo software that will use all sensory information in order to properly control the RampCo motion.
- To develop the RampCo web and mobile applications.
- To manufacture a laboratory rig for testing the complete prototype system.
- To demonstrate the functionality of the RampCo system under real conditions.
- To prepare publications and to participate in trade fairs for the presentation of RampCo Technology.
- To benchmark the new RampCo product together with other existing solutions.
- To develop training material/tools and to submit a patent application.
- To develop an exploitation strategy plan and to carry out the assessment from the technical-economical point of view.

Project Results:
In WP2, the RampCo design was completed including the assembly sequence of all components. The complete set of mechanical drawings and simulation results with design calculations and drawing tables has been generated and all components have been listed in the BOM. All components of the traction system (crawler and balancing units) were timely manufactured, creating a powerful and safe system that can be easily adapted to many stairs.
In WP3, further detailed analysis, testing and validation of the composite components was carried out in order to calculate bending, deflection and safety factors. The manufactured composite components include the carpet, the multi-layered double wall structured polycarbonate platform, the wing covers and the access ramps. Recommendations for commercial production in consultation with SMEs were drawn up.
In WP4 the design of RampCo’s control system was finalised and the testing of components was completed. The software that integrates all the individual functions of RampCo with the required logic and sensory feedback was developed. Also, the control system hardware was built. In addition, the web-based and mobile applications were developed. These tools notify the user of the exact geographical location of the system, provide the ability to pre-book RampCo online and allow the owner to get remote access to the operating system.
WP5 was dedicated to the integration of all physical prototypes and to the performance-verification testing. A laboratory rig was constructed, enabling the testing of RampCo prototype in different stairs, floor surfaces and slopes. Functional testing of mechanical, electrical and electronic components has been carried out as well as tests based on EU directives assisting to the prototype fine-tuning and optimization. Also, the documentation required for the RampCo certification and a risk assessment report have been prepared.
In WP6, the procedures needed to prove the compliance with the relative EU directives and standards were categorised. Also, the RampCo prototype was upgraded in order to be ready for the demonstration activities. Benchmarking analysis was conducted. For demonstration purposes two workshops were organized. The 1st workshop was organised by CyRIC and MDA and took place in the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING) building (05/12/2015). The RampCo prototype was installed at the parking area of CING and the system was demonstrated to the participants. The 2nd workshop was organised by Apintech and PASPA and took place in PAPSPA premises (21/12/2015). The audience was about 80 people at the 1st workshop and 30 people at the 2nd workshop. Feedback gained from the workshops was significantly valuable.
In WP7, the training material was prepared. It consists of: a) a fully detailed users’ instruction manual and b) two product demo videos. A workshop among the consortium partners was held in CyRICs’ laboratory premises to demonstrate the actual prototypes’ performance and to perform training of the SMEs. Also extensive patent search was applied revealing the opportunity to apply for a patent. A patent application has been submitted to EPO. Leaflets brochures and posters were produced in English and Greek language and used in workshops and exhibitions. Two publications in sector related magazines were published. Also, a new version of RampCo website was released containing a link for the Android and Web Apps. RampCo technology was presented, through the participation of Degonda team, in two assistive tech commercial exhibitions. a) Rehacare, Düsseldorf, Germany, 14 - 17 October 2015, b) Swiss-Handicap, Lucerne, Switzerland, 27-28 November 2015. Moreover, a Business and Marketing Plan has been prepared revealing that RampCo could be an efficient and very attractive investment.
Finally in WP8, all required management tasks have been executed so as to ensure the proper progress of the project.

Potential Impact:
The project’s overall outcome, from the engineering perspective, is a fully operational, powerful and safe prototype that completely satisfies and exceeds any initial demands given, and easily overcomes the pre-set requirements of the participating SMEs.
The performance and functionality of the RampCo prototype, through the extensive testing procedures, proved to be very satisfactory and met all technical expectations through its attractive and modular design. All tasks were completed and the results from the validation and integration processes were successful. Design concepts, Requirements, Specifications, Fabrication designs, Assembly designs, Simulation results, Bill of materials have been documented deliberately and punctually in deliverables.
Moreover, any other documentation required, as for example with regards to the legislations, constraints, safety aspects and specific market needs as well as with regards to the product certification and risk assessment has been completed and approved by the participating SMEs. In addition, one of the main results is the business and marketing plan, which are both highlighting in a solid way that RampCo could be an a-priori efficient and very attractive investment.
All above resulted in a patent application with reference number EP16155813.5 after the extensive patent search that confirmed the opportunity for patenting a foldable and portable system like RampCo, capable of easy relocation and mobility from one place to another, that can support and move wheelchairs or other loads along stairs.
The potentials of the developed technology, as concluded by the SMEs and RTDs, are both scientifically, socially and commercially significant unfolding also a new era in accessibility devices, since this the first time that a foldable and portable ramp that can be adjusted to any number and kind of steps has been designed, constructed, tested and validated successfully. The SME participants of RampCo enjoys the unique advantage of taking the lead over competitors, with capabilities of commercial success on a global scale. RampCo has promising market penetration capabilities since no similar solution currently exists. RampCo would represent a significant step forward in terms of patient mobility and would be great, not only for SME participants but also for consumers and industry in general. It is a product that gives the opportunity to the participating SMEs to expand their business activities and their trans-national cooperation, to improve their competitive position and to strengthen their market potentials. Key aspect in achieving success is the product differentiation compared to competitive products: a) attractive price, b) convenient utility, c) foldable and portable, d) versatility that allows using a single RampCo cart to serve a number of carpets in different locations within the same building or the same area, e) accessibility without the space consuming and permanently installed devices, f) horizontally ascending and descending during the whole operation that increases significantly the feeling of safety to the wheelchair users.
The RampCo after its commercialization, can enable people with disabilities to have equal participation in daily social activities, without being confronted by physical obstacles. Also, the RampCo can give the opportunity to people with disabilities to achieve social inclusion, and social participation in the working and social environment. Social Inclusion is among the primary goals of the European Union and the member states, since the high public expenditures for social cohesion are estimated to be constantly increasing based on the radical demographic changes.
It is intended that, the SMEs will continue to drive exploitation of the project results by promoting the system to their established network of clients and to investors. Upon completion of all managerial and administrative activities required, a new proposal for EU funding will be also applied aiming to bring the prototype from its current level (TRL=6) to a market ready level (TRL=9) until 2019.
The RampCo potential markets of application are: a) Public administration buildings, which are usually more keen in implementing non-discriminatory policies, b) Public utility buildings, such as sport centres, exhibition centres, theatres, places of religious worship, museums and archaeological sites where building level interventions and modifications are not permissible, c) Tourism premises, including hotels, restaurants, recreation facilities, and d) Private housing and business premises.

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