A group of researcher from the University of Lincoln , UK, developed a Soft-Grasp Infant Myoelectric Prosthetic Arm (SIMPA) using 3D scanning, additive manufacturing, and an armband-based Surface Electromyography (sEMG) system. This prosthetic is intended for children under two-years-old.
“Many traditional active prosthetics are unsuitable for toddlers as they are very time consuming to construct and heavy,” said Dr. Khaled Goher, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering at the University of Lincoln and lead engineer of the research. Continuing, “ Our Proposed system would utilize a seven-channel pediatric armband with motion sensors allowing infants to benefit from and become familiar with active prosthetics, with evidence showing that the earlier the exposure, the more likely for the prosthetics to be accepted and used throughout life.”
Usually small children don’t receive myoelectric prosthetics, controlled by electric signals in the muscles, due to difficulty and expenses of down scaling. Plus, the rate of a child’s growth make it necessary to constantly replace their prosthetics, which is why myoelectric prosthetics are mostly given to adults.
With the use of 3D printing the team was able to manufacture a custom prosthetic with soft gripper fingers that are controlled by the armband that is fitted with sensors to pick up electrical signals naturally conducted by muscles. Following several tests, the researchers found that the SIMPA can enable a toddler to grip and lift various small objects in the same way they would with a natural arm.
The study concludes that “the reduction in lead time and cost demonstrated by the presented design opens up the possibility of such a device becoming available from healthcare providers in high-income nations.”
“Correspondingly, in low-income nations, there is the opportunity for adoption due to the decentralized and low-cost nature of 3D printing techniques. The process of manufacturing prosthetic devices can be decentralized, utilizing a remote CAD designer in cases where the client is unable physically to visit a prosthetist.”
Vialva, Tia, et al. “Researchers Develop 3D Printed Sensor Embedded Prosthetic Arm for Toddlers.” 3D Printing Industry, 14 Jan. 2020, 3dprintingindustry.com/news/researchers-develop-3d-printed-sensor-embedded-prosthetic-arm-for-toddlers-167189/.