The Nonlinear dynamics, Vibration, & Control (NDVC) research team in the ME department led by Dr XJ Jing has kept cutting-edge and pioneering R&D activities with industrial impact. A recent technology innovation project, addressing comfort and health issues of professional bus/truck drivers, is successfully conducted and now comes to its benchmark stage, which was secured with nearly HK$4 million funded by the Hong Kong ITF via the Automotive Platforms and Application Systems R&D Centre (ITF-APAS), with additional associated Postdoc and internship programs more than HK$2 million in early this year. The project has been implemented under a close collaboration with industrial sponsors from Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou etc, which contribute with not only in-cash support about HK$450K but also facilities, materials and necessary equipment, under an ambitious commercialization plan, and now comes to a new stage with industrial prototypes done, top journal papers published, and patents filed or to be filed.

Vehicle vibration can lead to serious occupational problems to professional bus/truck drivers, including lower back pain, muscle fatigue, spinal column disease, digestive system diseases and other cardiovascular system effects. The related occupational safety and health issues have therefore attracted many social attentions in recent years from trade unions, doctors and governmental departments (Fig01).

Fig01. Vehicle vibration incurred professional health issues

The commonly-used practice for vibration suppression in most buses, trucks or coaches relies only on a built-in suspension system of vehicles when they were produced, and there is no any specific method for the healthcare issue. Although driver seats can be specially designed, most have no effective consideration on vibration suppression. Importantly, existing vibration isolation or suppression methods are often not working well due to a number of reasons (low performance or high cost), and this further creates a serious and challenging issue to the area of vibration control (Fig02).

Fig02. Limitations of existing methods

To solve these technical challenges and to address important social concerns, this project is to develop new generation vehicle seats, targeting effective and cost-efficient methods for improving occupational health of professional drivers (Fig03). New vehicle seats will be designed with an innovative award-winning bio-inspired nonlinear anti-vibration technology, which can achieve a special nonlinear stiffness beneficial to vibration control, and the novel anti-vibration mechanism is embedded in existing seat design which leads to no instalment and arrangement changes to existing seat structures. New vehicle seats can be adaptable to different payloads and would provide on-line alarming or assessment on historic and current sitting health. This project would provide a benchmark and unique product in this area solving the mentioned problems, and the developed anti-vibration technology in this project would also bring significant benefit to many other engineering areas for vibration isolation and suppression.

Fig 03. New generation vehicle seats with cutting-edge nonlinear vibration isolation technology