Automatic Feeder and Transfer Apparatus

Designers: Atif Haque and Kulbir Walha
Client Coordinators: Robbin Newton and Tonya Hamm
Supervising Professor: Dr. Larry N. Bohs

An electric feeder was modified and a wheelchair-to-bed transfer apparatus was developed for the client, a young man with cerebral palsy, to increase his independence in everyday activities. A damaged Winsford feeder (Klemco Engineering, Plumsteadville, PA), donated by Lenox Baker Children’s Hospital, was repaired and tailored for the client’s use. Using an altered “Buddy Bar” wheelchair attachment, the feeder can be clamped onto a wheelchair. A ceiling mounted transfer bar was created to allow the client to transport himself between his bed and wheelchair. The apparatus consists of an adjustable handle and rod attached to the ceiling and allows independent movement between the bed and chair.

How this project helped
The client is a 20 year-old man with cerebral palsy who is confined to a wheelchair. Because of his muscle control limitations, he previously had to be fed by his parents. The modifications made to the Winsford feeder now allow him to feed himself. The client’s disability, along with injuries he suffered in a recent car accident, make it impossible for him to get into and out of his wheelchair from his bed without help. At the client’s suggestion, the transfer apparatus was built, allowing the clientto move himself between his bed and wheelchair. These items have reduced the client’s dependence on others in his daily life. The client comments, “I enjoy the independence (the feeder) gives me to be able to feed myself.. Sometimes I get a little messy but that’s ok. I’m sure my mom enjoys getting a break from feeding me everything that I eat. I continue to enjoy the transfer bar in my bedroom. It is a big help when I get in and out of bed. These projects that you developed for me have been very beneficial.”

The donated feeder was initially repaired to make it operable. A new clamp was designed and constructed from aluminum block to allow the Buddy Bar to attach to The client’s new wheelchair, which was purchased after his automobile accident. The Buddy Bar allows table-mounted devices, such as a computer, to attach to the wheelchair.

To accommodate the feeder, a Plexiglas plate was designed to fit tightly into the feeder’s base. A key mechanism was designed from aluminum to slide and lock into place on the Buddy Bar lock plate. In order to increase stability, a Velcro wraps around the arms of the client’s wheelchair and connect at both ends to the base of the feeder.

While observing the client using the feeder, the client and his father noted other possible improvements. The mechanical arm lifted the food in an arc that extended past the plate. Hence, any spilled food fell onto the client’s lap. To fix this shortcoming, the feeder was modified as follows. To control the topmost point in the feeder’s arc, the pentagonal cam of the feeder was positioned so that the slanted side was flush to the feeder when the arm was in its apex. To keep the arm angle suitable for picking up food, an adjustable stop was constructed out of aluminum and attached to the feeder’s surface below the arm. The cams were also altered so the lifter stopped at the angle the client desired.

The spring mounted in the utensil holder was replaced with a rigid, stainless-steel tube to improve the client’s ability to eat without spilling food. In order to increase the amount of food that the lifter would carry during each cycle, a modified utensil was made. The initial utensil was a spoon; however, it did not lay flush against the plate when the lifter arm was in the down position. The spoon was replaced with a spork (a spoon with prongs on its end). The spork was used because it has a much flatter tip than any available spoon. The spork was flattened and its prongs were rounded. The modified utensil consistently picks up almost twice the amount of food per cycle as the original spoon.

The transfer apparatus (Figure 1) uses an arm consisting of a rod within a tube, both constructed of stainless steel. The inner rod has tapped holes at 2″ intervals, allowing the height of the handle to be adjusted by aligning it with screws placed through holes in the the outer tube. The handle is constructed from 1″ diameter stainless-steel rod to provide an adequate grip diameter for the client. The top of the pipe is connected to a universal joint from McMaster-Carr Supply Company (Atlanta, GA). The original joint only provided a 25o angle of vertical motion and very limited rotation. The vertical angle was increased to approximately 80o by grinding the joint’s surface. 360 o rotation was enabled by using a thrust bearing from Dixie Bearing Co. (Durham, NC).

The transfer apparatus was mounted to the ceiling of the client’s bedroom using a custom plate constructed of 1x4x20″ aluminum block, which distributes the load across two ceiling studs above the client’s bed. Holes in the plate allow the transfer apparatus to be mounted in three locations relative to two ceiling studs.

The estimated cost of the feeder modifications were $185. The complete transfer apparatus cost approximately $170.

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