ENGINEERING ACADEMICS AND STUDENTS MADE PROSTHESES
A TEAM FROM THE SCHOOL OF MECHANICAL CIVIL ENGINEERING DEVELOPED LEG PROSTHESIS, FROM THE DESIGN ON A COMPUTER TO MANUFACTURING.
August 4, 2017
A carbon fiber prosthesis for athletes was the result of the graduation thesis work of two students of the Mechanical Civil Engineering program, Felipe Romero and Diego Aravena, who, together Professors Gonzalo Pincheira and Karin Saavedra from the same school, developed a orthopedic device that allows a person who has lost part of his lower extremities to be able to do sports such as track and field or rowing.
The manufacturing of the artifact was carried out in the laboratories located at the Curicó Campus, where the students were able to, first, practice in the computers running simulations and numerical analysis on the resistance and versatility of its design, and then building the parts of the prosthesis with the materials required, ending with the assembly.
"The prosthesis that we manufactured cannot be compared with one developed for commercial purposes, but it is functional and can be used for someone who requires it," said Professor Gonzalo Pincheira.
The team that participated in the experience hopes to be able to take the project further and are thinking about the feasibility of developing new orthopedic devices with these characteristics in association with any institution that need them, since for each person a unique artifact must created, depending on his or her weight and size, because they are not scalable.
The cost of sports prosthesis are high, they can reach seven million pesos (close to US$10 000), due to the high price of the Carbon fiber sheets with which they are made. These figures are very far from what has been invested by this university project, which cost a million pesos (US$ 1 500, approx.), considering only the cost of the parts.
The academic explained that the equipment that they currently have, allows them to develop this and other projects, for example industrial parts or other innovative technologies, opening an interesting creation space for the students and to improve the capacities of the local industry.
When it comes to these devices, it is impossible not to recall South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, who in the last Olympics represented his country in speed competitions using this type of prosthesis, an example of how technology has evolved in materials and designs appropriate for those who must face the loss of one or both extremities.
In fact, the material used in the manufacturing is the same as the one used for the sprinter’s device, built on the basis of a series of carbon fiber layers or sheets of that are stuck together using special resins.
The system does not contain electronic or robotic circuits, but it moves thanks to the mechanical process that unfolds when a person walks or runs. When taking a step the prosthesis contracts, and then it returns to its original state when off the floor, propelling the athlete as a spring would.
"We took theory to reality, which was a challenge, we started from a basic design, through observing the load conditions, culminating with the manufacturing which is a complex process, but very rewarding," said Diego Aravena.
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