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64-Pound Car, ‘World’s Fastest Door’ on Exhibit

March 12, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ A 64-pound car that gets 3,803 miles per gallon is ″not practical for regular use,″ its inventor says. Then again, neither is ″the world’s fastest door,″ a $7,000 contraption that slams shut in 1.7 seconds.

For the more practical-minded, however, the world of engineering exotica also offers the experimental electric bandage, designed to speed healing, and a computerized alarm system that monitors the living habits of the elderly or infirm.

These and thousands of other technological marvels have been brought together under one roof at the National Plant Engineering and Maintenance Show and the National Design Engineering Show, which run through Thursday at the McCormick Place exhibition hall.

Design News magazine included the car, the bandage and the alarm in its exhibit of ″the 10 best technical ideas of last year.″

The energy-efficient car, an aerodynamic, three-wheeler dubbed the UFO2, weighs less than the small woman around whose body it was custom-built.

The vehicle is so small that when it won a mileage marathon, the woman drove without her shoes to save 35 to 40 miles per gallon.

It’s ″not practical for regular use,″ conceded John Michalowicz, marketing manager for Prime Computer Inc. of Natick, Mass.

Prime and Ford Motor Co. designed the car, using Prime’s computerized design system. Its top speed is about 25 mph.

The computerized alarm is being test-marketed in 50 homes by Medical Monitoring Systems Inc. of Madison, Wis. Lars Soderholm, editorial director of Design News, calls it ″a computer acting as a companion to older people.″

A health-care facility feeds the computer with information to remind a person of such things as when to take medicine, said Don Warren, president of Medical Monitoring. Sensors in the home help the computer learn a daily routine - the approximate time a person flushes the toilet each morning, for example.

″If you fail to perform that activity ... it will get suspicious,″ Warren said. The computer then sounds an alarm and asks if everything is OK. If the person does not respond properly within 20 seconds, the computer telephones for help.

For people who don’t take their medicine after a first alarm-reminder, the computer turns lights, televisions or other household items on and off. If they still don’t act, help is summoned.

To be marketed this summer, the device can be leased for $35 a month.

The electric bandage is being developed in Louisiana to speed healing by up to 30 percent. Intended for open wounds, it has a battery pack connected to a nylon gauze impregnated with silver oxide.

A low current stimulates blood flow while the release of silver ions helps kill bacteria, Soderholm said.″This is another way in which technology enters your life - through a bandage.″

What is billed as the ″world’s fastest door″ probably won’t be seen in too many suburban split-level homes. It is designed for warehouses and other commercial uses.

A slam of the speedy 8- by 10-foot plastic fabric door costs $7,000 - motors, sensors and installation included.

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