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multilink design of front suspension for motorcyclesEngineering professor Bruce Minaker is seeking a patent on a multilink design of front suspension for motorcycles.

Clinic aids mechanical engineering faculty in patent for improving motorcycle steering

When Bruce Minaker, associate professor and acting department head in Mechanical, Automotive, and Materials Engineering at the University of Windsor, began initially exploring routes to patent his invention, he recalled a previous mechanical engineering student he had taught — now the director of the International Intellectual Property Law Clinic. Dr. Minaker reached out to clinic director Wissam Aoun, who responded with interest.

Minaker’s invention is a new style of front suspension for motorcycles. His idea sprouted from his time as a motorcycle rider and enthusiast, and after working with engineering students for many years as a project advisor for the senior capstone design course.

Minaker explains: “For many years, the telescopic fork has been the standard for motorcycle front suspensions, despite the fact that it has some well-known weaknesses. These include fork bending deflection under braking forces, the associated sliding friction that results when that bending occurs, and the reinforcement needed in the frame to counter the large bending loads near the steering head bearing.”

His invention aims to eliminate these weaknesses by replacing the telescopic fork with a novel multilink. This unique linkage arrangement offers many advantages over a traditional fork suspension, both in the dynamic behaviour, and potential weight savings in the frame. An initial prototype was produced last year by University of Windsor engineering students in their senior design class, and a second round is scheduled to take place this year.

Minaker describes his overall experience with the clinic as fantastic.

“It was a pleasure working with them,” he says. “The opportunity to see student involvement, both from the law students at the clinic and from the engineering students in the project class in Windsor, has been a positive experience.”

He also felt that he benefited not only from the completion of the patent application, but also through the advice he received along the way.

“It was much more complicated than I had anticipated, and in retrospect, I certainly would have been lost had I tried to complete it on my own.”

Aoun says the collaboration has been an awesome experience.

“Clinic and faculty collaborations of this sort are very new for IP clinics generally, and this really is a first for Canada,” he says.

Aoun believes that these sorts of collaborations may lead to new forms of technology transfer processes, one that values IP protection but also situates it within the overall University mission of dissemination of knowledge.

“Working with professor Minaker and his students has been such an incredible experience, as he has placed so much value on having all of our students involved throughout the process, so that students not only learn about IP protection, but also the values of technical writing, collaboration and different perspectives on technology.”

Minaker’s patent application is currently pending.

Potential clients interested in working with the clinic can complete an online application on its website: www.internationalipclinic.com/clinic-application. Find more information on the interesting work going on in the International Intellectual Property Law Clinic in its Summer 2018 newsletter.