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Carbon handle for guide dogs

News International-French

13 Feb 2019

Refitech has created a lightweight carbon fibre handle for a new guide dog harness, which is produced using a prepreg material in a closed-mould autoclave process with a vacuum bag.

Refitech has been awarded a contract for series production of a lightweight carbon fibre handle for a new guide dog harness.

Refitech has been awarded a contract for series production of a lightweight carbon fibre handle for a new guide dog harness.

The harness was developed by NPK Design in Leiden by request of the Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation (KNGF Guide Dogs). The new handle weighs less than 50% of the previous metal version. This significantly improves the comfort for both the dog and the owner. The design incorporates several novel features inspired by kite surfing equipment and motor sports technology, while its reflective trim enhances the dog’s visibility in traffic.

Refitech has been awarded a contract for series production of a lightweight carbon fibre handle for a new guide dog harness.

When helping its owner to navigate obstacles and through traffic, a guide dog’s harness and handle are vital for signalling directions. This requires the harness to fit tightly and provide for all connections to be rigid and without play. Thanks to ridges incorporated in the design by the NPK team, the handle slots into place with a clearly audible ‘click’, a helpful feature for visually impaired owners. Once mounted on the harness, the carbon handle ‘floats’ above the dog’s back, making it easier to locate for the owner. The harness itself is made of leather, which happens to be the most wear resistant material for the job.

Janwillem Bouwknegt, one of NPK’s chief designers, said:

"We were honoured when asked by KNGF Guide Dogs to help them with the design of a new guide dog harness. After several meetings with owners and guide dog trainers, we chose a carbon fibre solution for the handle, mainly because of the material’s superior stiffness and weight characteristics. This in turn meant that we had to look for a supplier capable of taking on the small-scale series production of carbon components at a reasonable cost – and having worked with Refitech before, they were our first choice."

 

Refitech has been awarded a contract for series production of a lightweight carbon fibre handle for a new guide dog harness.

The handle is produced using a prepreg material in a closed-mould autoclave process with a vacuum bag. Its small size makes it challenging to produce. Inserts are glued in after the production process.


Bas Nijpels, Sales Engineer at Refitech, added:

‘NPK was leading in the conceptual design and functionality of the new harness. Our role in the process was to focus on the production aspects of the handle as well as on prototyping and material sourcing. As KNGF Guide Dogs is a non-profit organization that depends on donations for its work, we knew upfront that costs would have to be kept at a minimum. After optimizing the design for easier removal from the mould and for the use of prepregs, we now supply the new handle at a very favourable price, also thanks to our production facilities in China.’

KNGF Guide Dogs is a non-profit organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for blind or partially-sighted owners, people confined to a wheelchair as well as persons suffering from autism or post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). The organization offers the new lightweight harness to guide dog owners in the Netherlands. However, as the demand is universal, KNGF Guide Dogs has already secured orders from Australia and Belgium, while there is also interest in the United States.

This carbon handle for guide dogs has been selected as a finalist for the JEC Innovation Awards 2019 in the Sports & Healthcare category.

The JEC Innovation Awards - organized by the JEC Group - are recognized as the industry’s most prestigious awards that identify, promote and reward the most innovative composite projects worldwide. The award winners will be announced during JEC World 2019 on 13 March at 4.30pm.