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Takayoshi Kumagai, Akira Nagano, Keiji Ueda

Sumitomo Riko
Mattress prevents bedsores while lessening caregivers' burden

Sumitomo Riko
(r to l)
Tomonori Hayakawa
Project Deputy General Manager, Engineering Section,
Health and Nursing Care Products Business Unit
Yusuke Watanabe
Manager, Sales Section, Health and Nursing Care Products Business Unit

This spring an epoch-making bedsore prevention mattress debuted: Sumitomo Riko’s SR Active Mattress Taiatsu Bunsan. Sumitomo Riko is a manufacturer of rubber parts mainly for automotive and industrial applications. Thanks to the combination of a Smart Rubber (SR) sensor, made of flexible electricity-conductive rubber developed by Sumitomo Riko, and small air-cushion-like air cells in which the volume of air is adjustable, the mattress continuously measures distribution of the body pressure of a bedridden person and adjusts the height of the air cells where the pressure is concentrated so as to distribute the body pressure. In this way, it helps prevent bedsores even if the patient’s posture is not frequently changed, leading to a great reduction in the caregiver’s burden.

Yusuke Watanabe explains the background to the development of this product. “Keen to apply our technology to healthcare products, we launched a joint study with Kyushu University in 2010. What caught our attention was the burden on caregivers imposed by the need to frequently change the posture of patients, especially at home. For example, for an elderly woman, the struggle to move her husband in bed and change his posture every couple of hours throughout the night is extremely onerous.”

Just plug it in and turn it on. Then the mattress will automatically and continuously adjust itself to help prevent bedsores. It is so simple to use. This mattress does not require caregivers to have any special skills. Hayakawa holds a nine-centimeter-square air cell in the top photo.

“The product testers were in Kyushu and so our development engineers moved there for the five years of the project. They investigated the needs of caregivers and the people they were caring for, conducting interviews to identify their evaluations of the prototype. We carried out major modifications to the prototype, seven times in all,” recalls Tomonori Hayakawa.

Their efforts have borne fruit in the form of a product endorsed by the staff of care facilities. The SR Active Mattress Taiatsu Bun-san gained certification as “equipment for longterm care covered by public aid” this July, meaning that the product can be rented under the Long-term Care Insurance in Japan.

“For a bedridden person, the bed represents the full extent of the physical space in which he or she is compelled to live. We have confidence in Taiatsu Bun-san. If the need were to arise, I would want a member of my family to use it,” says Hayakawa.

Capitalizing on the knowhow gained through the development of this product for the Japanese market, the team is preparing to introduce it in overseas markets.

Reprinted from SUMITOMO QUARTERLY NO.150

Number(From the Sumitomo/Society Interface)