Rolling wheels for forklift trucks

A steering design concept that allows wheels to roll forwards, backwards and sideways is being proposed for use on forklift trucks.

James Martin, a 25-year-old, London-based physicist, was recently awarded a top prize of £1,000 at the Shell Livewire Grand Ideas Awards to help develop his idea, dubbed Annularly Arranged Articulating Segments (AAAS).

While still waiting patent approval, Martin explained that the idea is an alternative to current rack and pinion steering mechanisms. Traditionally, he said, as a steering wheel turns the tyre pivots about an axis, causing the edges to move in opposite directions.

Martin said the wheels on an AAAS system are essentially ‘chopped into pieces’ so that each articulate without an axis is parallel with an axle on the wheel. ‘Each of the segments can move in two components,’ he said. ‘It can roll forwards and backwards and each of the segments can roll sideways.’

Such a design, Martin claimed, can improve manoeuvrability and reduce wear and tear on tyres, which means a longer life, decreased fuel consumption and a reduction in toxic fumes created by disposing of old tyres.

Martin is initially targeting his steering concept at the materials-handling industry – specifically for forklift trucks. He hopes his steering system could significantly reduce costs for the industry by reducing fuel use and tyre replacements.

His ultimate goal is to introduce the steering system for the wider vehicle market, but he admitted that this is still many years away.

Martin is currently looking for a partner to develop his concept into a working prototype. With a larger cash injection from investors, he envisions that a demonstrator could be built in six months time, with full commercialisation around three years away.