Hands Free LLC didn’t just win a $50,000 award at FuzeHub’s 2020 Commercialization Competition. The New York City footwear company also met with the Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR), a connection that led to a mechanical engineering project, an Invest-NY grant, and test data that is supporting the refinement of a spring clip for secure fastening. The company’s product, Quikiks Hands-Free Shoes, needs this clip so that people can get in and out of their footwear without bending over or using their hands. The clip must work reliably, support many cycles, and have the required hold strength.
During FuzeHub’s 2020 Commercialization Competition, a virtual event held on the Remo platform, Hands Free co-founder and CEO Steven Kaufman met Michèle van de Walle, CCMR’s Industrial Partnerships Director. Kaufman explained his product; van de Walle described CCMR’s capabilities. Subsequently, Kaufman and van de Walle spoke via Zoom about a possible project. Before the winter holidays, van de Walle introduced Kaufman to Professor Alan Zehnder, a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. During the university’s break, Professor Zehnder completed a short, two-part project.
The first part of the project involved load testing. To determine the maximum supported weight of a Quikiks wearer, Hands Free LLC needed to determine the breaking point of a mechanism that is used inside the footwear. Kaufman sent Zehnder a 3D printed prototype of mechanical components and a plastic footwear model. Zehnder then used a load compression machine and reported the loads at which components failed. The Cornell University professor also performed a theoretical analysis based on the mechanism’s geometry.
The second part of the project involved using a spring clip to securely fasten the mechanism. CCMR provided a detailed analysis of this clip with data such as hold strength and cycle time until failure. Using the information, Kaufman is having new clips made with a variety of thicknesses. As the Hands Free co-founder and CEO continues to advance his product, he’s grateful for the support he received from CCMR and Cornell. “Michèle was a fabulous facilitator,” he says of van der Walle. Kaufman was also impressed with how Zehnder completed the project so quickly and with easy “back and forth” communications.
This project was funded in part by Invest-NY, a program from Empire State Development (ESD) that enables NYS businesses to engage Cornell University faculty in low-cost R&D projects, or to pursue the development of a system, technology, or prototype beyond proof-of-concept, leading to scale-up and manufacturing. Invest-NY can complement the JumpStart program, fill the gap between JumpStart and FuzeHub’s Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund, or complement SBIR and other sources of funding. Invest-NY provides 25% of matching funds to NYS businesses (not to exceed $12,500 per project).