SATOP provided technical assistance to a small manufacturing company for
a medical product that helps individuals stand from a seated position. Tabbs Manufacturing in Lufkin, Texas invented the product but needed assistance with the selection of materials.

The Help Me UpperTM is designed to assist people who have difficulty rising from a seated position. With their feet on the base plate and hands on the grips, they are able to pull themselves to a standing position. However, inventor and Tabbs Manufacturing CEO Tommy Smith said the product needed refining. He said the product was too heavy, and for safety purposes, the surface of the base plate needed to be more abrasive, while maintaining its smoothness.

Smith said he invented the product when his mother became ill and had difficulty standing. He built a wooden prototype, and then a steel version, both of which functioned well, but were too heavy for a fragile person or caretaker to manage. Smith said he had heard about a program (SATOP) that offered free technical assistance from Brian McClain of the Small Business Development Center at Angelina College. After experimenting with various metals, he finally contacted SATOP for assistance.

SATOP Project Engineer’s Richard Smith and Ryan McLaughlin collaborated on the challenges to uncover the best-suited Alliance Partners. They quickly agreed that The Boeing Company and Sensis Corporation had a wealth of expertise, which could solve the challenges.

Smith matched SATOP volunteer and Boeing Engineer Chris Vickroy with the issue of a non-slip base plate surface. Within a week of receiving the Request for Technical Assistance, Vickroy was able to make a useful recommendation. A low cost material named “dri-dek” could easily be sprayed upon the base plate. This provided Tommy Smith with a safe, durable, nonskid material that is cost effective to implement.

“It’s a good way for those of us at Boeing, to help small businesses by extending the experience we’ve gained while doing our jobs,” said Vickroy.

McLaughlin called upon Sensis Corporation’s Mark Sabatino to resolve the fortitude of the product and review the lightweight cost effective material. Sabatino not only conducted a vital stress analysis but also gave recommendations on composite materials for the device.

Today, the product is being distributed to four outlets throughout the state of Texas. Tommy Smith said he has just completed construction of a manufacturing facility in Lufkin, gearing up to take the product to the next level.

“I’ve made contact with an Ombudsman from Medicare and we have passed three of five requirements,” said Smith. “We hope to be able to accept Medicare coverage for the product within the next year.” “I am pleased that we were able to meet Mr. Smith’s engineering needs and help his small business get on the right track toward a successful future,” said SATOP Executive Director Bob Mitchell. “That’s what SATOP is all about: providing expertise that is not readily available to the small business sector.”