It can be a long and difficult journey for an engineer trying to navigate their idea from initial concept, through prototyping and into production. Darren Gilligan of engineering components supplier WDS Component Parts explains how the company has supported one particular inventor.
WDS is a manufacturer and supplier of engineering components, including standard parts, machine accessories and workholding components. Its ethos is to offer an incredibly wide range of high quality products so that it can meet the almost infinite variety of requirements across a range of technology-based industries and sectors. Importantly, rapid delivery - usually overnight – is the norm on most products and value for money is a high priority.
Another key element in the WDS offering technical support to clients when requested, which can be provided at a number of different levels.
Naturally, many of WDS’s customers know exactly what they want so do not need assistance. In these cases they can quickly identify the appropriate part using the website’s search function. For customers who know what they want, but not the exact part number or product size, there is a helpline that can be accessed via telephone or email.
However, there are further levels of help that WDS can offer to customers who don’t yet have defined component requirements. If requested its expert engineers can really get involved in identifying the best products for a particular job – or even designing and manufacturing bespoke parts.
This level of help often kicks in when customers are engaged in somewhat unusual projects, such as adapting existing plant and equipment, refurbishing vintage machinery, developing something new or even inventing an entirely new product.
Design engineers in WDS’s Bespoke Parts Design and Manufacture department can help by organising the adaptation of an existing part, or work with the customer to develop a completely unique solution designed specifically for the project in hand.
WDS is currently working with Ken Jones, Managing Director of Advanced Aluminium Design as he develops a massive advance on the design of motorcycle trailers.
Jones explained the origin of his idea: “Owners of racing bikes, off road machines and evocative old classics have for many years struggled to get their motorcycles in the backs of vans, or have invested in trailers that are equally cumbersome to load and which can be difficult to tow. Our new trailer is designed to take all this hassle away and make motorcycle ownership an even greater pleasure.”
Modern motorbikes can weigh as much as half a tonne, so to say getting them safely onto a trailer can be difficult is an understatement. Usually planks are used to form a makeshift loading ramp, but pushing a bike up this ramp starts off difficult and gets progressively harder - and it is not uncommon for the bike to slip off the side.
Jones’ concept was to create an all aluminium trailer that was perfectly balanced. So using the see-saw principle and designing a folding tow bar allowing the trailer to pivot on its axle, thus allowing bikes to be loaded at ground level using a rolling cradle held in position using a WDS Cam index bolt.
A winch at the front of the trailer is then used to steadily pull the bike into position in a safe and controlled way. However, because bikes vary in weight from 100 to 500kg, getting the trailer to tip forward in a controlled manner was proving difficult.
He called WDS to order some parts and tap into the company’s expertise. Discussions covered several ideas based on springs, levers and cranks before the use of an adjustable gas strut was settled upon. There was quite a lot of work to identify the optimum size, bearing in mind the different weights involved, but eventually a size and mounting configuration that worked well over this wide range was identified.
WDS has also supplied Jones with a large locking pin (QRP T-Handle) to hold the folding towing arm level and stable during transit, pull ring plungers to secure the tailboard and various other parts that contribute to a great overall design.
The design of the trailer has now been finalised and is being tested prior to certification for use on the public highways, so should soon become a common sight on roads around the country.
As well as individual motorcycle enthusiasts, Jones expects that many organisations will become corporate customers. For instance, roadside rescue services currently tend to sub-contract motorbike recovery rather than do it themselves. This can add hours to the response time and, because of loading difficulties, damage to the bikes is not uncommon.
“With our trailer the recovery people can serve motorcyclists directly,” he said. “It will also allow lots of small and medium sized garages to extend their services because collecting and delivering bikes will become so much more attractive.
“WDS has helped get this project to completion quickly and efficiently, and their enthusiasm throughout has made the whole job a pleasure.”
WDS has worked on many similar development projects over the years and can often identify possible solutions very quickly and work up cost effective realisations based on standard or adapted parts.
While WDS was set up to serve mainstream engineering sectors, it maintains stock profiles, service levels and expertise that can really support creative inventors. Its standard parts are all characterised by high quality and superior performance, while its stock levels mean unrivalled choice and excellent value for money.
Once a client’s design has been finalised and put into serial production they can set up ‘standing orders’ so that products can be dispatched at future dates. Each time WDS helps solve an engineering design problem, details are logged onto a database to create a library of solutions that can be called up in an instant for use on future jobs.