The research team for the ARMM project at WAMIC: Allan Spence, PhD, researcher and industry liaison; Yodha Singh, Mechanical Engineering Technology student and former research assistant; Dave McKechnie, laboratory technologist; Daniel Bordenave, Bisep CEO and founder; and Avery Edge, Mechanical Engineering Technology student and former research assistant.
The aging population has a new made-in-Niagara solution to help regain their freedom of movement, thanks to a new device created by a local company with help from Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division
Niagara Falls-based start-up Bisep Inc. is kicking off the new year by rolling out the full-scale commercialization of a new device that helps connect a person’s wheelchair to their walker, enabling unaided movement – solving a common challenge in long-term care. Named the ARMM (Ambulation, Retraining, Mobility, and Mechanism), the device acts as a security bridge to allow users to walk unassisted with their walker while the wheelchair trails safely behind them.
They plan to manufacture 1,000 units at Spark Niagara, a small manufacturing facility in Niagara Falls which, in turn, supports the creation of jobs and economy in the Niagara region.
The device was the brainchild of Bisep Inc. CEO and founder Daniel Bordenave, who identified the need, came up with the concept and turned to NC’s engineering research team at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre for assistance in getting its innovative medical technology to market.
“We were limited in the machinery that we had and the brain capacity … we are not engineers,” said Bordenave. “What attracted me to Niagara College was the ability to access the amazing innovation department, a national leading group of engineers, and essentially create a quality product that would be functional, user-friendly, and safe.”
“This project is an example of applied research at its best, providing learning opportunities for our students as we help businesses innovate,” said Marc Nantel, NC’s vice president of Research, Innovation and Strategic Initiatives. “We are proud to use our expertise at our Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre to provide solutions for a Niagara-based company that will assist the aging population in our community and beyond.”
Bordenave came up with the concept of attaching the wheelchair to the walker. After formulating his idea, he enlisted the tool and die talents of his grandfather to help fabricate a proof-of-concept prototype in their garage. To get it to market, he sought help from the engineering team at NC’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, based at the Welland Campus. NC’s R&I engineering team executed two projects to get to the final prototype, with funding from the Niagara Region and the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI).
“This device is applicable to hospital wards for medicine, surgery, orthopedics, cancer – for people who are less mobile and need to be more mobile in order to go home.” – Jodi Steele, NC professor for the School of Justice and Fitness
First, the College research team capitalized on its mechanical design software and rapid prototyping technologies to create an initial prototype that would be ready for real-world testing, while Bisep put it into use in a medical research environment. Bisep conducted successful clinical trials through a collaborative research project with the Niagara Region and Brock University.
In addition to having a NC Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant student assist Bisep on a co-op placement, professor Jodi Steele, from the College’s School of Justice and Fitness, leveraged her contacts to help the company secure live focus groups with therapists.
Steele, who is also a physiotherapist and kinesiologist, said she initially reached out to Bordenave with some market advice after watching a promotional video about the ARMM device. She then rounded up a group of physiotherapists and occupational therapists at Hamilton’s Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre, where she previously worked, to offer invaluable critiques of the prototype in its early stages.
Bordenave brought the ARMM to hospitals and long-term care facilities for focus groups with more than 100 therapists.
“The device is brilliant; it allows the people who may be ambulatory but need a lot of assistance using less manpower,” Steele said, pointing to statistics that show if people sit for one or two days, they are more prone to atrophy. She was also involved in a large study that showed by just adding a physiotherapist to a medical ward, they decreased the stay by between 2.5 and 3 days.
“This device is applicable to hospital wards for medicine, surgery, orthopedics, cancer – for people who are less mobile and need to be more mobile in order to go home,” she added.
Yodha Singh, Mechanical Engineering Technology student and former research assistant at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, demonstrates Bisep’s ARMM device in action.
NC Mechanical Engineering Technology student Avery Edge valued the opportunity to work on the second phase of the project as a research assistant with WAMIC. “I have learned a lot about material strengths and properties, and how they affect the strength and performance of a device,” said Edge. “Being able to work with all technologies on this project also made it so enjoyable … going from computer CAD software to 3D printing to manual metalworking for prototypes allowed me to experience what it takes all around to make a great device.”
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