It is estimated that there are currently 11.5 million amputees worldwide, of this number approximately 70% are lower limb amputees. By the year 2050, this number will have doubled. For these people, prosthetic devices are an integral part of daily life, helping them engage with the outside world.
Over the past 2 decades, traditional prosthetics devices have been advanced through electro-mechanical systems, creating the field of bionic prosthesis. Through the use of microprocessors, bionic prostheses are able to mimic the movements of biological limbs, allowing users to achieve tasks that would otherwise be impossible using traditional prosthesis. However, with such high levels of functionality comes a price tag in excess of $80,000usd which is unobtainable for many of those who would truly benefit from this technology.
This project tackles this issue through the creation of an open source platform that allows the user to design and build their own customised bionic prosthesis, and facilitate future development through stakeholder engagement. Outcomes from this project include a website which includes; a parametric prosthesis designer, assembly instruction, code and all resources required to build a bionic prosthesis as well as a physical prosthesis as a proof of concept.
This research utilises user interviews, literature reviews as well as user and mechanical testing to explore potential design solutions. From these, the project was given the framework and scope necessary for it to be developed within a practice-based research methodology. Through this approach, the final platform was able to produce a final prosthesis that was between 1/30 to 1/55 of the cost of other available devices on the market. The effectiveness of the project for the end user will require further clinical testing, this is hoped to be achieved through the open source design platform, which is designed to facilitate the continual improvement of the project through collective knowledge and experience.