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Spring Loaded Nears Sales Target

Spring Loaded Technology has launched the sale of its acclaimed bionic knee brace in a crowdfunding campaign that aims to raise at least US$75,000 – which it almost reached in its first day.

The Dartmouth company announced Wednesday that its Levitation knee brace — which strengthens the joint as well as stabilizes it — is now available through a campaign on Indiegogo. The Levitation normally costs US$2,499 but the first 65 customers on the Indiegogo campaign snagged the brace for US$1,190.

By noon on Wednesday, the sales had reached US$48,659 or 65 percent of the target. And company spokesman J.J. Podborski said there were still a few thousand followers the company intended to contact in the afternoon, so the company was hoping to reach its target soon. As of this morning, the sales had reached US$72,167.

The campaign runs until March 10 and the product, which is manufactured in Dartmouth, is due to start shipping in June.

Spring Loaded began at Dalhousie University’s Starting Lean program three years ago with a simple idea. Knee braces are cumbersome and add no strength to the knee, so why not design one that adds power to the joint? In the ensuing time, CEO Chris Cowper-Smith and Chief Technical Officer Bob Garrish have produced several prototypes and raised $1.8 million to bring the product to market.

“We wanted to create a powerful spring-loaded knee brace that was affordable and could benefit everyone,” said Cowper-Smith in a statement. “Along the way we tried metal springs, polymers, and even gas springs, none of which were quite right. Eventually we developed a new type of liquid spring that allowed us to keep our brace light, powerful, and compact.”

The Spring Loaded team has stressed two elements of design since they started. First, they wanted a piece of technology that stored energy when the user bent the knee, and released that energy to give added lift when the leg straightened.

Then they wanted a sleek and comfortable design, reducing the awkwardness of wearing a brace and producing an appliance that could be worn with street clothes.

The company is targeting a few key markets. People with disabilities that affect their movement could benefit from Levitation’s ability to give the leg more power. And athletes can use the brace to increase leg strength and absorb shocks.

The Levitation even has a military application as it could allow elite troops to greatly increase the equipment they carry on commando excursions. These soldiers now greatly increase their chance of injury if they carry more than 80 or 90 pounds, but Levitation could increase that to about 120 pounds.

“What our brace would enable people to do is carry that extra 30 or 40 more of gear,” said Podboski in an interview. “Picture a whole platoon where everyone can carry an extra 30 or 40 pounds of ammunition, food, equipment – they’re going to have pretty distinct advantage over the enemy.”

One interesting aspect of the crowdfunding campaign is Spring Loaded – which has a contact list totalling 8,200 people – has already proven itself deft at such campaigns. Last summer, Cowper-Smith was Nova Scotia’s nomination for the BDC Young Entrepreneur Award. He launched a social media blitz that had hi at or near the top of the public voting throughout the competition, which he won.

Spring Loaded now has 16 employees and has raised a total of $1.8 million from such investors as Innovacorp and members of the First Angel Network.