BionicWalker Development and research of a prosthetic fitting for partial foot amputations started
A team of researchers in the “BionicWalker” project wants to develop a new type of prosthesis for people who have had part of their foot amputated. This is intended to restore a normal, dynamic and symmetrical gait and thus prevent subsequent complaints caused by changes in gait. Patients should be able to return to social and professional life more quickly as a result. Engineers are working on this together with researchers in a cooperative project in which the Institute of Aircraft Design and Lightweight Structures at Technische Universität Braunschweig is also involved.
The essential function of the BionicWalker is achieved by a special spring element made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic that replicates the characteristics of the anatomical structures that no longer exist. Just like in a healthy musculoskeletal system, part of the kinetic energy is stored as potential energy in the spring element when stepping on during walking. When the foot is lifted again, the compressed spring supports the patient and thus reduces the amount of force required.
Starting with a gait analysis to determine the medical requirements, the complete development, production and combination of all components into a demonstrator takes place within the cooperation project. Its functionality and effect will be proven through tests in a testing machine, with an industrial robot and realistic tests in the gait laboratory. A patent for the product is already being applied for.
The main task of the Institute of Aircraft Design and Lightweight Structures (IFL) at TU Braunschweig within the project is to create and validate a calculation model of the fibre composite spring element. In addition, the IFL is involved in determining the forces and moments during the use and design of the spring element and its connection to the product. This ensures that the spring element meets the requirements of human gait and withstands the dynamic load.
In order to master the interdisciplinary challenges in the project, in addition to REHA OT – Lüneburg Melchior & Fittkau GmbH as industrial partners, Zeisberg Carbon GmbH from Hanover and OK Gummiwerk Otto Körting GmbH from Hameln are involved in this project. The Institute of Aircraft Design and Lightweight Structures at TU Braunschweig and the Institute for Polymer Materials and Plastics Technology at the TU Clausthal are contributing their expertise as research partners. Both institutes are part of the Lower Saxony Research Cooperation for High Performance Production of CFRP Structures (HP CFRP) based at the CFRP North Research Centre in Stade. The Institute for Orthopaedic Movement Diagnostics (OrthoGO) of the Hannover Medical School (MHH) is also a partner in the cooperation project. The consortium is administratively supported by the Wirtschaftsförderungs-GmbH für Stadt und Landkreis Lüneburg (WLG).
The project is being managed by REHA – OT Lüneburg Melchior & Fittkau GmbH. The project started on 1 August 2021 as part of a two-year cooperation project funded by the Zentrales Innovationsprogramm Mittelstand (ZIM) (Central Innovation Programme for small and medium-sized enterprises).