Interestingly, according to Simon Weber, he wasn't even aiming for high-performance sports. When he began researching mono skibobbing as part of his design engineering thesis, his aim was to create equipment that allowed paraplegics to enjoy normal skiing. A passionate skier and skiing teacher in his spare time, Simon Weber was frustrated with the uncomfortable and cumbersome models available and wanted to supersede them with an innovative system. “My aim was also to make skiing accessible to more paraplegics, in order to build their self-confidence and self-reliance.” In 2013, he ventured into self-employment, launching Unicent GmbH and realising the pilot production of his revolutionary Impulse Boost mono skibobs.
The thesis laid the foundations and the rest was trial and error. Simon Weber understood what the focus of his design should be: “Sports equipment for disabled athletes needs to be good enough that the athlete can concentrate on the task in hand—in this case skiing—rather than focusing all their energy on how to operate the equipment.”
Sports equipment for disabled athletes needs to be good enough that the athlete can concentrate on the task in hand—in this case skiing—rather than focusing all their energy on how to operate the equipment.
The Impulse Boot has largely succeeded in doing that. The modular construction is made up of a spring-loaded, stainless steel frame, onto which a customisable carbon seat is fitted. This is then connected to a ski in the same way you would a standard ski boot. The frame's suspension is an important element and consists of the same kind of shock absorber used in mountain biking. Adjustments can be made depending on weight and skiing style.
In addition, the shock absorber in combination with the ingenious kinematics of the frame ensure the height of the seat can be freely adjusted, thus helping the wearer when getting off a ski lift.
Worlds apart – the original mono skibob (left) and the high-tech Impulse Boost.
“The frame and mechanism work like a skeleton”, explains Simon Weber, “and the shock absorber acts like the muscles and tendons while also taking on the control functions, just like the human brain.” The resourceful engineer and designer created and constructed his mini skibob using Solidworks Premium 3D CAD software. “Without 3D modelling, I would never have been able to get this complex design off the drawing board,” explains Simon Weber. Being responsible for design, assembly and marketing, he appreciates the software's broad range of applications and intuitive interface, particularly as he doesn’t spend all day and night designing—on the contrary—winter means test runs on the pistes and then there are the many occasions when he has to assemble the mini skibobs. “Compared to other CAD programmes, it’s quick and easy to resume projects in Solidworks,” says Simon Weber.
If it had turned out that something in the pilot production hadn’t worked as well as expected, without this feature I would have had to construct everything from scratch once again. With Solidworks, all I had to do was to change the sketch and the rest was adjusted automatically. It saves so much time.
One of the key features of the software is the layout-based assembly design. What's the advantage? The assembly and its parts are automatically updated when the layout sketch is changed. “If it had turned out that something in the pilot production hadn’t worked as well as expected, without this feature I would have had to construct everything from scratch once again. With Solidworks, all I had to do was to change the sketch and the rest was adjusted automatically. It saves so much time.” Simon Weber. And being able to simulate complex movement sequences in 2D to see what effects it has on another part, by simply adjusting the geometry, fascinated the engineer.
Weber also found the rendering functionality to be very convenient and effective: “It was a big plus for me that I could use Solidworks to implement everything on my own—from the first idea, to designing, through to marketing.”
In addition to creating advertising materials and flyers, the PhotoView function enables presentations to be enhanced with effective, deceptively real renderings of the product.
Professional rendering: Light, reflection, shine –with a lot of diligence and PhotoView, you can achieve the perfect “shot”.
The creative businessman was also supported by Solid Solutions AG—a Solidworks partner in Switzerland and a Bechtle Group company. What’s more the proximity of the branch in Gümlingen, near Bern, saved a lot of time and also a few trips to Zurich at the beginning of the project. “It's clear that these are professionals, proficient in their program and its tools”, emphasises Simon Weber. “Not once did I feel I was being treated differently to a large company with 20 or 30 licences although mine was just a small business with only one.”
The next step for Simon Weber is to market his sports equipment more intensively internationally in order to reach the goal of producing 30 to 50 units every year. The idea to expand the “Impulse” brand is also part of the strategy: “The system is ideal because it can be also be used for other applications” He could imagine experimenting with two skis instead of one or even with wheels, making the equipment accessible for able-bodied athletes as well.
Another idea is already a little more advanced and fits in with Simon Weber’s creative self-image: By modifying the seat, the self-driving mono skibob could be converted to enable a guide to accompany the skier. “It would be a significant increase in the quality of life for someone with multiple handicaps to be able to determine how and where to go, even when being accompanied.”
Christoph Kunz races at up to 100km/h to victory at the Paraski World Cup on the Impulse Boost. (Image: Marcus Hartmann)
Solid Solutions AG
Published on Jan 31, 2018.