École Polytechnique Fédérale Lausanne (EPFL) and the International Committee of the Red Cross are partnering to develop a prosthetic foot for use in developing countries. The Agilis prosthetic foot is being designed for people with lower-limb amputations who have high-mobility needs, with the aim of improving their capacity for socioeconomic integration. The first phase—evaluating the performances of different types of prosthetic feet—was recently completed. The second phase, a yearlong design phase is now under way at the EPFL Laboratory of Applied Mechanics and Reliability Analysis. The goal is to propose an innovative, efficient design that gives the prosthesis advanced biomechanical performance functions, thus allowing the user to walk as naturally as possible.
Much of the technology currently available in developed countries can be out of reach in developing countries due to cost. Moreover, these technologies are generally not adapted for use in these countries, because of issues with durability, aesthetics, etc. Because the Agilis prosthesis is being designed for humanitarian needs, limiting manufacturing costs is key. To better understand the options that different designs offer, the team first completed a comparative study of the available prostheses.
The team chose not to include people with amputations at the initial phase, and instead modified ankle immobilization splints and attached prostheses to them. After a prosthetist/orthotist aligned and adjusted each subject’s prosthesis, the walking cycle, the ground impact, and the prosthesis’ deformation during various tests were analyzed. The results were then compared with static machine tests to make the link between design, rigidity, and dynamic performance.
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by EPFL.