DIY Wheelchair Tire Scrubber With Vacuum

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Introduction: DIY Wheelchair Tire Scrubber With Vacuum

This Instructables takes you through how to make a handheld vacuum wheelchair tire scrubber. The purpose of this device is to help wheelchair users clean their wheelchair tires while seated before entering their home or a friend’s home and tracking in the dirt or debris stuck between the treads. The scrubber system kicks the debris out of the treads while the vacuum system collects it and protects the user and their chair from getting dirty. The device is designed with a hand mount and straps to be used by wheelchair users with various levels of strength and dexterity.

Click HERE for a quick video demonstration of the wheelchair tire scrubber in action.

What wheelchairs does it work with?

This device is specifically designed for 24" x 1 3/8" tires. However, it is accommodating for tires of various widths and diameters. The maximum tire width is 2”.

This device will work with all wheelchairs where the arm mounts or cloth guards can be removed. It could work on chairs with permanent guards, but it will make cleaning more difficult from the seated position.

Whether you are a wheelchair user or want to build this for a friend or family member, make sure you have the materials and tools available, and watch the videos and directions to make sure this device will work for your unique ability and wheelchair. If you have any questions you would like answered before you start or need any help assembling your Wheelchair Tire Scrubber, please contact ltowery6@gatech.edu.


Build Options

There are two setups for this device: one uses a specific handheld vacuum while the other can be attached to a vacuum you already own. Each setup has its advantages. If you want to save money, get better suction, and/or are working with heavier debris, we recommend the setup that can attach to any vacuum. If you want your device to be portable and are cleaning off lighter debris, we recommend the setup with the Brigii Vacuum.

With Brigii Handheld Vacuum:

  • Most portable
  • Do not need to create an adapter with CAD (Step 3)
  • Easier to maneuver because the vacuum is attached to the device
  • More expensive with the purchase of the Brigii Vacuum
  • Less suction than most non-handheld vacuums (not recommended for heavy debris)

With Already-owned Portable Vacuum:

  • Portable
  • Slightly more awkward to maneuver without a holder for the vacuum
  • Less expensive
  • Suction depends on the quality of your vacuum
  • Must create an adapter to fit into the vacuum shroud with CAD (Step 3)

With Already-owned Canister or Conventional Vacuum:

  • Not as portable since the device is confined to the location of the vacuum
  • Less expensive
  • Typically much better suction (best for heavier debris)
  • Must create an adapter to fit into the vacuum shroud with CAD(Step 3)
  • More difficult to maneuver with the larger vacuum hose attached

Supplies

Materials

Tools

  • 3D Printer and Slicing Software
  • Vertical Bandsaw or Dremel with Cutting Tool
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Sander
  • Scissors
  • Calipers (used in Optional Step 3)

Step 1: Taking Apart the MECO Scrubber

Materials

  • MECO Scrubber

Tools

  • Sander or Dremel with Cutting Tool
  • Horizontal Bandsaw or Dremel with Cutting Tool
  • Phillips Head Screwdriver

First, you will take apart the MECO Scrubber and collect the components that you will use in the Wheelchair Tire Scrubber. Follow the steps below or open "Taking Apart the MECO Scrubber Instructions.pdf" to see pictures along with each step.

  1. At the end of the scrubber where the scrubbing attachment connects, there are two rounded extrusions on the outside of the black round connector. Use a sander or Dremel tool to remove these extrusions and make it flush with the rest of the black rounded end. This allows the round black motor cover to be removed.
  2. Use a screwdriver to remove the 6 screws that connect the round black motor cover at the scrubber end. Set these screws aside because they will be used during assembly. They will be referred to as the Motor End Screws.
  3. Slide off the black motor cover and the flexible grey piece underneath.
  4. Use a screwdriver to remove the three screws connecting the gearbox to the scrubber. These can be identified with the wide tabs. Set these screws aside because they will be used during assembly. They will be referred to as the Gearbox Screws. Do not remove the other three screws because they hold the gearbox together.
  5. Use a screwdriver to remove the two screws connecting the two halves of the scrubber.
  6. Carefully pull the two halves apart.
  7. Use a screwdriver to remove the 5 screws that hold together the two halves of the handle.
  8. Carefully pull off the top half of the handle to expose the electronics.
  9. Pinch and pull apart the two connectors on the PCB.
  10. Remove the battery and detach the scrubber end. 
  11. Slide out the motor and gearbox from the scrubber end.
  12. Use a Dremel Cutting Tool or Horizontal Bandsaw to remove the hollow cylindrical extrusions that held the Gearbox Screws. Cut so that only flat tabs with screw holes remain. This will allow the gearbox to be installed properly in future steps.
  13. Use a screwdriver to remove the two screws mounting the PCB to the bottom half of the handle. Set these two screws aside because they will be used during assembly. They will be referred to as the PCB Mounting Screws. Carefully remove the PCB and Power Jack from the handle.
  14. Ensure you have all these parts for the rest of the assembly:
  • Motor and Gearbox
  • Battery
  • PCB connected to Power Jack
  • 6 Motor End Screws
  • 2 PCB Mounting Screws
  • 3 Gearbox Screws

Step 2: Cutting the Bristle Attachment

The package of bristles linked in the supplies section comes with a 4” attachment and a 2” attachment. The 2” attachment will work but cutting the 4” attachment down to 3” greatly improves the efficiency of the Wheelchair Tire Scrubber.

Materials

  • 4” Yellow Bristle Attachment

Tools

  • Horizontal Bandsaw
  • Scissors

Follow the steps below or open "Cutting the Bristle Attachment Instructions.pdf" to see pictures along with each step.

  1. Print out the Bristle Attachment Cutting Guide. Make sure to select “Actual Size” instead of “Fit to Printable Area”. Use scissors to cut along the edge of the outer circle. Then, cut out the inside circle.
  2. Place the cut guide on the top side of the 4” bristle attachment. If it doesn’t fit snug, you can use tape to secure it.
  3. Set up the bristle attachment set up in the bandsaw with the hex bit facing up. Make a straight cut tangent to the outer edge of the guide.
  4. Use a smooth, slow, and consistent rotating motion to cut out the rest of the bristle attachment, following the outer edge of the guide.
  5. Remove the guide to get your final 3” bristle attachment.

Step 3: Designing Adapter for Your Vacuum

You only need to complete this step if you are creating the Wheelchair Tire Scrubber with your own vacuum rather than the Brigii Vacuum.

In this step, you will be designing an adapter where one end inserts into the vacuum shroud/chamber at the bottom of the Wheelchair Tire Scrubber and the other end connects to the hose on your vacuum.

The attached directions are for SolidWorks, but any CAD software will work to make this part. The adapter created in the instructions assumes your vacuum hose has a circular opening.

If you do not want to design this part, you can use duct tape to secure your vacuum hose to the shroud but making this adapter will allow you to easily switch between using the vacuum with the wheelchair tire scrubber and using it for other tasks.

Step 4: 3D Printing

Materials

  • PLA, PETG, or other Plastic Filament

Tools

  • 3D Printer
  • Sander
  • Ultimaker Cura or other slicing software

Depending on which setup you are assembling, you need to 3D print the following parts. The STL files are attached at the bottom of this step.

For Both Setups:

  • Gearbox Housing
  • Motor and Battery Housing
  • PCB and Power Jack Casing
  • Casing Cover
  • Snapfit Opening to Hex Bit Adapter
  • Strap Clip 1 (x2)
  • Strap Clip 2 (x2)

For the Scrubber with Recommended Handheld Vac:

  • Brigii Vacuum Holder
  • Brigii Vacuum Shroud

For the Scrubber with Any Vacuum:

  • Generic Vacuum Shroud
  • Adapter designed in Step 3

Slice and 3D print all the necessary files for your chosen setup, adjusting the settings as needed for your printer. See the attached PDF for a guide on support generation and orientation with Ultimaker Cura.

After your parts print, remove all supports, sanding where necessary.

Step 5: Adding Velcro Straps

The Velcro straps are attached to the Motor and Battery Housing so that users do not have to rely on grip strength to hold and operate the device. It also prevents the device from falling out of the user’s hand.

Materials

  • 3D Printed Motor and Battery Housing from Step 3
  • 3D Printed Strap Clips from Step 3
  • Adhesive velcro

Tools

  • Scissors


The attached instructions give step-by-step directions with pictures for adding the straps.

Step 6: Assembly of the Scrubber (Part 1)

Materials

  • 3D Printed Parts from Step 4
  • Motor and Battery Housing with Straps from Step 5
  • Electronics and Hardware from Step 1
  • M4 Bolts and Nuts

Tools

  • Screwdriver


Follow the steps below or open "Assembly of the Scrubber Part 1 Instructions.pdf" to see pictures along with each step.

  1. Place the Motor and Gearbox into the Gearbox Housing. Fasten the Gearbox to the Gearbox Housing with the three of the Motor End Screws set aside earlier.
  2. Push the white connector at the end of the Motor Wire through the bottom of the Motor and Battery Housing and guide it through the rectangular slot.
  3. Carefully push the Motor and Battery Housing down over the motor.
  4. Use the M4 Bolts and Nuts to fasten the Motor and Battery Housing to the Gearbox Housing.
  5. Align the PCB with the two mounting holes in the PCB and Power Jack Casing. The push button should fit through the hole behind.
  6. Fasten the PCB to the PCB and Power Jack Casing with the two PCB Mounting Screws set aside earlier.
  7. Slide the charging port into the top compartment of the PCB and Power Jack Casing with the wires facing out.
  8. Slide the battery into the top of the Motor and Battery Housing.
  9. Connect the wires from the battery and motor into their respective connectors on the PCB.
  10. Align the slots of the Casing Cover and the PCB and Power Jack Casing. Slide the Casing up around the PCB, carefully bending the wires if necessary.
  11. Press the connecting Case into the Motor and Battery Housing, lining up the screw holes and ensuring that the power button is on the opposite side as the finger contour grip.
  12. Use two of the Gearbox Screws set aside earlier to fasten the PCB Case to the Motor and Battery Housing.
  13. Ensure your device turns on.
  14. Press the Snapfit Opening to Hex Bit Adapter onto the Scrubber end of the device.

Step 7: Adding the Flexible Flaps to the Shroud

In this step, you will be adding the flexible flaps onto the end of your vacuum shroud. These flaps fit against the tire to maximize vacuum suction and prevent dirt from being flung on the user. They can be made of many different thin, flexible materials such as the foam sheet linked in the supplies section. Feel free to try different materials you have available to see if they allow for better suction. They are duct taped on so that they can be changed out after getting dirty over time.

Materials

  • Foam Sheet or Other Flexible Material
  • Duct Tape
  • Scotch Tape (optional)
  • Cut Bristle Attachment from Step 2
  • 3D Printed Vacuum Shroud

Tools

  • Scissors


Follow the steps below or open "Adding the Flexible Flaps Instructions.pdf" to see pictures along with each step.

  1. Print the Flexible Flaps Guide.pdf, making sure to select “Actual Size” instead of “Fit to Printable Area”. Use scissors to cut along the outside black line.
  2. Cut the inside shape out. These flaps are designed for 1 3/8” tires, so if you have larger tires, cut slightly outside the center shape. If you have smaller tires, cut slightly inside the center shape.
  3. Place rolled-over pieces of scotch tape on one side of the cut-out guide.
  4. Cut a piece of foam slightly larger than the guide and adhere the guide to the foam.
  5. Cut along the edges of the paper to form the same shape out of the foam sheet.
  6. Detach the paper.
  7. Insert the Bristle Attachment from Step 2 into the Vacuum Shroud that you printed. The end of the Bristles should point to the large tire opening.
  8. Place the foam cutout over the large opening, centering it with the tire cutout.
  9. Use duct tape to secure the short ends of the foam cutout.
  10. Use small pieces of duct tape to tape down the center two flaps on each of the long sides of the foam cutout. Make sure there is a 1-inch gap between them.
  11. Use small pieces of duct tape to secure the rest of the foam cutout down.
  12. Use longer pieces of duct tape around the outer edge to ensure a secure connection and a vacuum seal.

Step 8: Assembly Part 2

Materials

  • Vacuum Shroud from Step 7
  • Duct Tape
  • Brigii Handheld Vacuum or other vacuum of your choice
  • Partially Assembled Wheelchair Tire Scrubber from Step 6


Follow the steps below or open "Assembly Part 2 Instructions.pdf" to see pictures along with each step.

  1. Press the Hex Bit end of the Bristle Attachment into the Snapfit Opening to Hex Bit Adapter.
  2. Rotate the Vacuum Shroud so that its opening is on the same side as the finger grip.
  3. Use duct tape or glue to secure the Vacuum Shroud to the Gearbox Housing to prevent rotation. Glue will have a better connection, but duct tape will allow easier removal in the future.
  4. If you are building the setup that works with any vacuum, insert your 3D printed adapter from Step 4 into the opening in the Vacuum Shroud. Then, insert your vacuum hose. Your Wheelchair Tire Scrubber is complete! Tip: If the adapter does not fit tight enough, wrap it in tape to getting a better press fit. 
  5. If you are building the scrubber for the recommended Brigii vacuum, slide the Brigii Vacuum Holder onto the device so that the power button shows through the hole and the slot for the vacuum sits above the finger contour grip.
  6. Slide in the Brigii Vacuum so that its power button is facing away from the device.
  7. Connect the Brigii Vacuum Hose so that the wide end connects to the Brigii Vacuum through the bottom of the Brigii Vacuum Holder and the round end connects to the Brigii Vacuum Shroud. Adding duct tape around the shroud connection improves suction. Your Wheelchair Tire Scrubber is complete!

Step 9: Using Your Tire Scrubber

  1. While seated in your wheelchair, turn on both the scrubber (black button) and the vacuum. Put your hand in the strap. Tip: For the Brigii Vacuum, you must hold down the power button.
  2. Line up the slot in the flexible flaps at the end of the vacuum shroud with the tire and lower the device so that the bristles work their way through the treads. You don’t have to push down hard to clean. The scrubber will stop if too much downward force is applied.
  3. Slowly move forward and backward along the section of tire you can reach. More passes will be needed for heavier debris. You can also slightly tilt the device as you make a pass to kick out more debris from the sides.
  4. After cleaning the section of tire you can reach, propel forward to expose a new section of the dirty tire. Repeat this cleaning until the entire tire is clean.
  5. Repeat for the other wheel.
  6. Turn off the scrubber and vacuum.
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