Suppliers Segue into new business – The Supply Side – Segway scooter’s parts suppliers – Brief Article
“Think” forward and with just the slightest forward tilt, the Segway scooter moves forward. “Think” stop and the Segway obediently stops. Think profit and you’re thinking the way several automotive suppliers did when they decided to work with Dean Kamen, inventor of the fashionable Segway HT scooter and founder of Segway LLC.
Diversifying into new business opportunities that compliment existing technological know-how and manufacturing capacity is a trend that auto suppliers are using to keep their factories running flat out. And for companies like Segway LLC that have their first contract with Tier 1s and Tier 2s, the capability of these suppliers is nothing less than mind-boggling.
“I needed to work with companies that had flawless quality, durable products and could build them in tens or hundreds of thousands at a time,” says Kamen. “The auto suppliers give me everything and more than I hoped for.”
Among the key suppliers for the Segway are GE Plastics, which makes thermoplastic components and aesthetic cladding, Michelin, which makes tires and wheels, and Delphi Automotive Systems, which supplies the complex power electronics and computing power that help the Segway balance itself.
“We’ve actually hired employees to supply these components,” says Delphi CEO J.T. Battenberg. “We’re happy to be a part of this because this is one of our core competencies, complex electronics is one of the things we do well.”
The Delphi computer is fed data by sensors and gyroscopes that can sense the slightest tilt in the scooter. When it tilts forward, the computer tells the wheels to move forward to get back under the center of the mass. To stop, a slight lean to the rear causes the wheels to reverse direction, bringing Segway to an instant stop. While stationary, it makes constant and slight corrections that stabilize it, similar to the way a human’s inner ear works.
Kamen says that if Segway is successful, “sales will go worldwide and number in the millions.” Battenberg replies, “I hope he’s right.”
Made by Segway LLC
Body style Two-wheel scooter
Assembled in Manchester, N.H.
Sales target (2002) 100,000
Construction Die-cast unit-
Motors Dual, brushless
Batteries NiCad or nickel-
Balance mechanism Five-gyroscope,
Top speed 12.5mph
Range 17 miles per charge
Footprint 19×25 in.
Height (at platform) 8 in
Curb weight 80 lbs.
paylord 250 lbs. (passenger),
75 lbs. (cargo)
Turning radius 0
DC motors Pacific Scientific
Power electronics Delphi
Balance sensors Silicon Sensing
Gyroscopes British Aerospace
Plastic trim GE Plastics
Delphi CEO J.T. Battenberg takes a spin on the machine that could
RELATED ARTICLE: Kamen Comments
Q: How do you prevent people from stealing the HT?
A: It’s worthless without the key. All the value parts are encoded to the key, so even if you stripped it down for parts, they wouldn’t work.
Q: What if it’s reverse engineered? Are you worried about copies?
A: I suppose you could copy components, but the tough part is the code that makes it work. That would be impossible to crack.
Q: Does an overweight America really need to stop walking?
A: I don’t think washing machines made us fat. This is a time-saving device. Maybe there will be more time to exercise.
Q: What do you do on an HT when it rains?
A: Well, you get wet. Maybe not as wet as if you were walking because you get where you are going faster.
Q: This HT is $8,000; you say it’ll get down to $3,000. How?
A: I admit that’s an aggressive goal. I hope it will be $3,000 But these models are commercial duty for postal carriers and the like and those will be consumer models.
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