Car spreader alternative to the ‘Jaws of Life’
A University of Waikato mechanical engineering student has designed an alternative to the Jaws of Life, the cutting machine frequently used by rescue workers to extract people from cars involved in an accident.
Rather than cutting through the vehicle, Andrew’s Car Spreader straightens bent steel back to its original shape.
The heart of his machine is a hydraulic ram capable of a 10 tonne retracting force. The frame was profile cut from G350 mild steel and is arranged around the ram with adjustability to suit a range of small vehicles.
“Car versus object impacts tend to bend the vehicle around a roadside installation such as a power pole, leaving the driver and any passengers trapped inside.
“The current method of getting passengers out is to use hydraulically powered cutters and spreaders to disassemble the car's structure,” says Andrew.
“The problem is that modern cars are made from stronger steels and can contain high current electrical cabling and airbag propellant tanks that can make it unsafe for first responders to cut a car apart.”
Andrew, a former Waiuku College student, began with a machine concept from Pukekohe company Belcher Industries. Along with workshop space, the company provided supervision from engineering manager Kael Roberts, who was a co-supervisor of the project alongside university engineering lecturer Dr Rob Torrens.
Following pre-testing with beams of steel, they tested the spreader on a Ford Telstar sedan that had been in a side-impact collision.
“The machine was fixed to the side of the vehicle and powered by a mobile hydraulic power pack, which contracted the ram,” said Andrew.
“The force pushed the left and right pillars backward, while pulling the centre of the car outward.”