Company factfile

  • Team: Collaborative development initiated by the University’s Business Engagement Team between Professor Yong Wang from the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE) and electrical enclosures manufacturer, Ritherdon Co. Ltd.
  • Application: High-quality, stainless steel electrical enclosure for highways use
  • IP: Patents, know-how

“An opportunity to apply academic expertise to make an impact in the real world”

Professor Yong Wang

About Passively Safe Roadside Cabinet

Roadside cabinets are used as feeder pillars for lighting columns and to house electrical apparatus including traffic light controllers and motorway communication equipment. They need to be robust enough to provide a dry, secure accessible environment for the increasing amounts of electrical equipment on our roads yet safe enough to reduce the risk to drivers in the event of a collision.

Professor Wang and Ritherdon have codeveloped Passively Safe Roadside Cabinets which will avoid serious injury if a car is in collision with the units. A significant proportion of road traffic accidents are the result of collisions with signs, signals, poles and other items of street furniture. This technology now allows them to be made passively safe (designed to break on impact) offering a real contribution in the reduction of personal injury to the occupants of vehicles.

The novel shearing mechanism and cable management at the cabinet: base interface makes a high-quality, stainless steel electrical enclosure for highways use which has been crash-tested and which is passively safe to EN 12767, making it possibly the world’s first.

Ritherdon successfully crash tested its RB800 Passive Cabinet in tow tests at the Transport Research Laboratory in December 2012 and January 2013. In both tests the cabinet sheared away near its base on impact and was knocked ahead of the vehicle. The impact on the vehicle/passengers was much reduced as was the danger of any electrical components breaking inside the cabinet.

Passively safe sign and lighting columns are well established in the UK but little crashtested street furniture has been available until now. The RB800 Passively Safe cabinet has gone some way to closing this gap.

We met up with the collaborators, Professor Yong Wang and Ben Ritherdon, CEO and University of Manchester Alumnus, to find out more…

Ben, what prompted you to contact the University for the expertise required in the development of this new product?

When we started designing the Passively Safe Cabinet we realised that we needed greater mechanical expertise to model both the behaviour of the cabinet and its shearing mechanism in a collision. Having such a well-respected research University just down the road from us at Ritherdon & Co and The University of Manchester also being my alma mater it made perfect sense to ring the University up for some advice.

How did you find dealing with both University functions, Business Engagement Team and UMIP?

It’s an efficient process. When I first got in touch with the University, Saq Rasul from the Business Engagement Team identified all the required expertise in the School of
Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE) and UMIP; got a team together to work with us. The project was underway within a matter of days.

Prof Wang, how do you feel you have benefitted from this collaboration?

The collaboration gave me an opportunity to apply academic expertise to make an impact in the real world. I found the whole process pleasant and straightforward.

What did you especially value from the University during this process?

I was really impressed with the professionalism of the staff of all the University departments involved and smoothness of the entire process.

Was there anything which surprised you during the process?

I was particularly surprised by the short time that it took from starting the development, through product manufacture and crash testing, to successful technology transfer
and patent application. For this, I would like to thank the collaborator Ritherdon.

Has this process had any impact on your research?

Not yet, but I am in discussion with Ritherdon about other potential developments which may lead to future research projects.

Do you have any advice for colleagues thinking of licensing/ co-development projects?

I think it is important that the industry collaborator has clear requirements for the product they want to develop and is willing and has the resources to go through all the
stages of product development. I was lucky that Ritherdon was such a collaborator.

Ben, what does the future hold for the new Cabinets?

We developed the Passively Safe Cabinet for a customer of ours to use on a road scheme in Scotland where it will be used for housing road-side environmental monitoring equipment. We are also looking at other potential sites where the Passively Safe Equipment Cabinet could be used to reduce collision injuries on high speed roads.

“Having such a well-respected research University just down the road from us at Ritherdon and with the University also being my alma mater it made perfect sense to ring up for some advice.”

Ben Ritherdon