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Revolutionary New Wheel Invented at Marshall

Source: Marshall Star, Marshall Space Flight Center, Marshall, Alabama USA April 24, 1974, page 3



By Mike Wright

   A new type of vehicle wheel which could have several valuable applications has been designed by an engineer at the Marshall Center.

   Josef F. Blumrich of the Program Development directorate has received a patent on his invention of an omnidirectional wheel which could provide a vehicle with the ability to change its direction of movement without changing the direction it is facing.  

   Blumrich has assigned the patent to NASA, which is willing to license the invention in accordance with its patent licensing regulations.  

   According to Blumrich, a wheel of this type could be employed in the design of wheelchairs to provide patients with increased mobility.  Several study groups, he says, have already expressed an interest in this concept which would benefit the physically handicapped.


Blumrich says the design for his wheel was inspired by a reference in the Biblical book of Ezekiel to a "wheel within a wheel" which could change its direction of movement without turning or steering.


   In one of many possible designs, Blumrich says the rim of the omnidirectional wheel is made up of several barrel-shaped segments.  These segments are designed to rotate independently when they are in ground contact.  The rotation of these barrel-shaped rim segments, combined with the normal rotation of the entire wheel, Blumrich explains, gives his wheel omnidirectional movement.

   Blumrich says that the omnidirectional wheel would be strong enough to negotiate rough terrain. For this reason he says, it could be employed in the design of a lunar or planetary surface vehicle where a severe environment might require abrupt changes in direction.