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November 6th, 2013

Roadless Wheel Concept Adjusts to All Terrains

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Written by: Design-Engine
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Graduate student Ackeem Ngwenya has combined the 6000 year-old wheel with modern materials to develop a new type of all-terrain wheel assembly that switches from narrow to wide tread at the turn of a screw. His Roadless wheel system, while envisioned for rural applications in his native Malawi, has the potential to be as big a change to road (and off-road) transport as was the introduction of anti-lock braking.

The Roadless wheel system attempts to throw out the limitations of a pneumatic tire by substituting a tread material wrapped around a pair of rod networks attached by an axle. The rods are adjusted using a mechanism reminiscent of a scissor jack.

The Roadless wheel concept is based on networks of compliant arches whose shapes vary with...

When the disks on which the rods are mounted are far apart, the wheel takes the form of a wide tire of small diameter. When the disks are moved close together, the wheel becomes a narrow tire of large diameter. The proximate rods from the two disks are mutually attached to a fixed bearing (light blue circle).

A Roadless wheel adjusted to a variety of aspect ratios (Photo: Ackeem Ngwenya)

The tread of the wheel must be sufficiently compliant to adapt to the changing aspect ratio of the wheel, so is likely to be some form of elastomer. Alternately, the wheel can include compliant members that directly form the shape and supporting mechanism for the tread, which can then be as simple as a sheet of rubber.

A Roadless wheel made of spring steel rods connected to an axle by movable mounts whose ad...

The video below tells the story of Roadless, and also shows more clearly how it adjusts to varying terrain. There are a host of variations of this basic idea, whose genesis was to make it easier for people living in rural Malawi to more easily deliver their goods to market. It does not seem likely that this concept will stop there.

Articel Written By: Brian Dodson courtesy of

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One Comment

  1. james

    looks like we are getting closer to a mechanically advantaged smart material

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