Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


Tom Mase


Mechanical Integration of a Versatile Air Suspension into a Powered Wheelchair

Joel Steinkraus

It is undeniable that the vibration environment created by prolonged exposure to wheelchair use can cause discomfort for the rider and put him/her at risk of developing more severe medical conditions. While more research must be done to accurately quantify what constitues a harmful vibration environment, improved vibraiton isolation is an essential step. In order to incorporate structurally sound and effetive air suspension systems into motorized wheelchairs, a support structure is necessary. An after market wheelchair suspension system was designed, modeled, built and tested. Approximately 18 inches wide x 14 inches deep and 11 inches tall, the 50 lb suspension system uses a linear guide system and air spring to support the rider. A dashpot was added to prevent the amplification of the air spring’s natural frequency, and a pneumatic system installed to store and regulate the air pressure in the air spring and allow for a longer ride time. Testing of the system validates the mechanical durability of the design with respect to joint separation, plate bending, and bearing breakaway resistance. The penumatic system also is found to support up to 14 ingress/egress cycles before reaching a minimum functional pressure level. This value was achieved using an initial charge pressure of 100 PSI. Further environmental and user testing should be conducted to see if a greater number of ingress/egress cycles is necessary. Further development of the suspension system will incorporate a partially active controller for the air spring in order to to reduce the suspension’s transmisibility. Part respecificaitons are proposed in order to reduce system size and weight.