You may have heard about the Marvel Comics character Forge, who created bionic replacements for the limbs he lost during a conflagration. Or perhaps the fictional television character Steve Austin (Six Million Dollar Man), the astronaut who was horribly injured after his aircraft crashed and was given bionic arm and legs?
In real life, technology has turned fiction into fact. A modern prosthetic limb that can be custom-molded in two hours is a science fact today.
It was recognized among the Top 20 useful innovations for the world in 2016. The customizable artificial substitute for a missing limb may see further enhancements in the years ahead.
While regular individuals may not engage in combat like Forge nor undertake a special mission like Austin, they may find great use for a prosthetic limb. Unfortunately, a prosthetic limb can be costly.
The good news is that healthcare is among the areas that will be seeing remarkable transformation in the coming years.
Accessible Prosthetic Innovation from a German Startup
With the advent of innovations like the re-moldable Dignity Socket, which drastically simplified the custom-fitting process, more amputees get to benefit from prosthetic with a human-centered design. Since the socket can be remolded multiple times, end-users can save money simply by reshaping the mold rather than spending for new sockets.
Comfort control was also factored in — amputees can make small adjustments on the socket to accommodate changes in limb size for greater comfort. The re-moldable Dignity Socket (and its fitting method) created by German startup firm AMPARO has pending patents.
Nonetheless, the prosthetic innovation was cited a winning hardware at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Innovation Showcase.
The oldest known prosthetics date back a few thousand years ago in Egypt. In the U.S., the high number of amputees during the Civil War led to the widespread use of prosthetics.
In more recent years, The Modular Prosthetic Limb (or MPL) was built by the Johns Hopkins laboratory. It consists of 26 joints controlled by 17 separate motors and could function like a normal limb.
However, the MPL’s sophisticated movements were limited by the level of technology available for interfacing with the body’s nervous system.
In June last year, Mechanical Engineering graduate student Jessica Menold competed on behalf of AMPARO during ASME Innovation Showcase (or ISHOW) held in Washington, D.C. Menold and her team carried out the task of creating and increasing access to prosthetics for amputees in developing countries.
The team addressed amputees’ common problem of having to go back to the clinic many times for the socket to be made by a specially trained prosthetist and custom fitted, which has become the most expensive part of getting a modern prosthetic limb.
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