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Dayton Daily News:
by Thomas Gnau
Staff Writer

Wed. May 2, 2007

Lift seat nears production

Local tech specialists lend a hand to area inventor

DAYTON — Sometimes the most promising inventions are slap-yourself-on-the-forehead obvious.

That doesn't mean creating them is simple.

Ask Dale Bell, president of Dayton's Cirrus Concept Design. The Centerville resident has spent nearly a decade and about $60,000 of his own money to develop a battery-powered seat that raises and lowers a person in a wheelchair.

After enlisting the expertise of Sinclair Community College's Advanced Integrated Manufacturing (AIM) Center and Kettering's Edison Materials Technology Center (EMTEC) — as well as $700,000 of state Third Frontier funds — Bell is now zeroing in on production of the idea, which he dubbed "Retro Lift."

Bell hopes to begin production in Dayton or at least somewhere in Ohio. Even to find the right manufacturer, he will rely on EMTEC's advice.

"There's a lot of blood and sweat between, 'I got an idea,' and 'It's into production,' " said Donna Hoying, an AIM project manager.

While a wheelchair that raises and lowers was patented decades ago, Bell describes Retro Lift as a light, portable seat that can be easily detached and reattached. He obtained a patent at the end of 1998.

The idea first occurred to Bell in the mid-1990s while working as a registered nurse in the home of a large man who had suffered a stroke. Simple tasks like moving him from a chair to a bed were daunting.

"That's what provoked it," Bell said.

The device — which can be slung over an arm when collapsed — can also help raise people who have fallen, Bell said, offering a needed assist to hospital or nursing home workers.

Joyce of Dayton, a maker of electric cylinders, built an engineered prototype three years ago. Bell approached EMTEC last summer for further refinement, hoping to cut the device's weight, said Jon VanDonkelaar, EMTEC's director of new product development.

VanDonkelaar estimated that the device is about 80 percent complete. The goal is to make a prototype using customer feedback before pursuing safety and electrical certification. He thinks Retro Lift could be in production by midsummer.