Bionic Limbs Research News April 04, 2021

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As part of our mission to help those with limb differences stay informed of what’s happening with bionic limb technology, we periodically report on the latest research news. Below are the most interesting stories that we uncovered over the past few weeks.

Cool Technology to Improve Socket Fits

As we like to periodically restate, we do not endorse any commercial product. Nor do we allow ourselves to have any financial relationship with the makers of any product that we review. Our focus is entirely on the needs of end-users.

Now that we’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, check out this cool technology:

And what do they do with this valuable information? Five gold stars if you guessed this:

That’s right. They use the advanced sensor data to make the perfect socket.

This caught our eye because we spend a lot of time on amputee support forums and read a lot of complaints about socket problems.

Is this technology right for you? Check out these case studies (scroll down near the bottom). If any of them are relevant to your situation, maybe it’s time to talk to your prosthetist about upping their game. Remember, you deserve the best!

This also spawned a cool idea: what if this company incorporated the ability to map out myoelectric sensor placement and signal strength into this system? Then prosthetists could make the perfect socket for bionic devices in all respects!

Did you hear that Adapttech? If you haven’t already thought of this idea, feel free to run with it, no charge!

Speaking of Sockets…

Now that we’ve established that we can just imagine super-advanced technologies and hand all the hard stuff off to someone else, we thought, hey, if you can create a digital model of the perfect socket, why not just have a machine build it?

Based on our preliminary research, we’re at least 12 years late on this idea:

We know, we know. The video’s grainy, and CNC + 3D lasers sounds like something Grandpa would have used in his basement workshop. But what can we say? 2008 was practically the Stone Age.

What excited us was imagining how much further we’ve advanced since then.

When it comes to upper-limb sockets, our imagination hasn’t been disappointed. Odds are, your next-door neighbor is probably 3D-printing bionic arm sockets nowadays. But lower-limb sockets are a different story. Researchers just can’t stop breaking them! Apparently, using something millions of times with heavy, shifting mechanical loads is rather demanding.

We did find one company, located in the Philippines, that is building entire fitted leg prosthetics (i.e. not just a socket) using 3D printing:

This isn’t quite the same as building a socket that attaches to a device because the mechanical loads are different, but it’s still encouraging as per the following key points:

  • This prosthesis is only about 1/10 of the cost of making a similar prosthesis using traditional casting methods. Imagine getting that kind of cost-saving!
  • They have a 2-day turnaround!
  • They last 2-3 years, which, at 1/10 the cost, is still a pretty good deal.

One major limitation for these devices is user weight limit. The current maximum is 80 kilograms. The average North American male weighs around 90 kg, and the typical maximum weight for microprocessor knees and ankles is between 125 kg to 150 kg. In other words, not quite there yet for the North American market, at least for male users.

So, why are we bringing this technology to your attention if it isn’t ready for true lower-limb sockets? Because we wanted to let you know that 3D printing continues to advance for lower-limb use. We also wanted to assure you that we are monitoring this technology and will let you know the moment the next breakthrough occurs.

Click here for more information on Instalimb.

Extended Home Use of An Advanced Osseointegrated Prosthetic Arm Improves Function, Performance, and Control Efficiency

Why waste words when this short video says it all:

Here is why this excites us:

  • The ability of the user to improve his control over an advanced bionic arm, and especially to begin to customize its use for specific personal tasks, may well open the door to a different paradigm for bionic limbs in the future. Perhaps a key measure of a bionic device won’t be how well you can use it on Day 1. Perhaps it will be its capacity to bond and grow with you over time. Why do we point this out? Because it may eventually elevate the AI learning capacity of a device to the top of your shopping-list priorities.
  • The commercial version of the MPL, named the Atom Touch from Atom Limbs, is due out in 2024. We don’t know if these two technologies will remain joined at the hip or will diverge going forward (we just added this to our list of questions to ask Atom Limbs the next time we talk to them), but we do know that the Atom Touch has a few notable advancements over the MPL shown in this video. This makes us almost giddy with anticipation!

For a good article on the version of the MPL shown in the video, see Amputee Makes Music With Modular Prosthetic Limb.

If you want to go deeper, check out the related scientific study in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

Related Information

Are you interested in bionic limb research? If so, see our complete selection of research articles.

For a comprehensive description of all current upper-limb technologies, devices, and research, see A Complete Guide to Bionic Arms & Hands.

For a comprehensive description of all current lower-limb technologies, devices, and research, see A Complete Guide to Bionic Legs & Feet.