05 Jul Less strain for dogs and owners thanks to new harness design
Refitech produces lightweight carbon bracket for guide dogs
Waalwijk, The Netherlands, – Refitech has been awarded a contract for the series production of a lightweight carbon fibre bracket for a new guide dog harness. The harness has been developed by NPK Design in Leiden, at the request of the Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation (KNGF). The design incorporates several novel features, inspired by kite surfing equipment and motor sports technology. In addition its reflective trim and safety light enhance the dog’s visible in traffic.
When helping its owner to navigate obstacles and through traffic, a guide dog’s harness and bracket are vital for signalling its movements. It requires the harness to fit tightly and for all connections to be rigid and without play. Thanks to the ridges the NPK team incorporated in the design, the bracket slots into place with a clear ‘click’, a helpful feature for a visually impaired owner. Once mounted on the harness, the carbon bracket ‘floats’ over 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.
‘We were honoured when asked by KNGF to help them with the design of a new guide dog harness,’ says Janwillem Bouwknegt, one of NPK’s chief designers. ‘After several meetings with owners and guide dog trainers, we came up with a carbon fibre solution for the bracket, mainly because of its superior stiffness and weight characteristics. This in turn meant we had to look for a supplier used to small scale series production of carbon components at a reasonable cost, and having worked with Refitech before, they were our first choice,’ Bouwknegt continues.
‘NPK was leading in the conceptual design and functionality of the new harness,’ explains Bas Nijpels, Sales Engineer at Refitech. ‘Our role in the process was to focus on the production aspects of the bracket, as well as prototyping and material sourcing. As the KNGF 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 mould removal and the use of prepregs, we now supply the new bracket at a very favourable rate, also thanks to our production facilities in China.’
KNGF 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 PDSD. At present the organization only offers the new light weight harnesses to guide dog owners in the Netherlands. However, as the requirements for these are universal, KNGF is now looking for potential partners to market the new harness across Europe.
About NPK Design
Based in Leiden, near Amsterdam, NPK Design’s team consists of designers, engineers, strategists, and researchers all with a passion for solving complex problems. With their expertise they are able to assist clients throughout the entire innovation process: from identifying ideal opportunities, to designing integrated design solutions and guidance towards market introduction. For more information: www.npkdesign.com.
Refitech specialises in engineering and producing industrial composite components. The company was founded in 1989 and provides composite solutions for several markets including industrial automation, UAV systems, medical equipment and marine systems. Services include composites engineering, prototyping, series production, including parts and components assembly, and CNC milling, while Refitech’s standard tubes and connectors can be purchased directly online. In addition to its headquarters in Waalwijk, the Netherlands, Refitech has its own production facilities in Ningbo, China. For more information: www.refitech.nl.
Helping its owner around obstacles and through traffic, the guide dog’s harness and bracket are vital for signalling its movements. (Source: NPK Design)