Scientists from the United States have developed an open-source prosthesis that weighs only 4 kg. Due to the open license, the cost of the device has become three times cheaper.
The researchers explained that knees, ankles, and legs, which are being developed around the world to help patients walk, are powered by electric motors. Getting the most out of such powerful prosthetics requires safe and reliable control systems that can accommodate many different types of movement, such as going from walking on level ground to walking up or down ramps or stairs.
To solve this problem, scientists have developed a device called the Open Source Leg. They detailed the results of their research in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. The accompanying free step-by-step guides accompany the artificial limb to assist researchers wishing to assemble it or order parts for it. The researchers also released videos illustrating the assembly and testing of the hardware, and developed code to program the prosthesis to walk using a pre-control system.
The bionic leg that they designed weighs just 4 kg. Although it is much lighter than a biological leg, it still seems heavier for patients, because they do not attach closely to the skeleton, but to the prosthetic device. An open-source device costs between $10,000 and $30,000, depending on the variant. Commercially available powered prostheses cost up to $100,000, the researchers note.
Towards the end of their study, the scientists conducted a clinical trial of Open Source Leg with three volunteers. When they wore the new device in a hospital setting, they were able to achieve the goals set by the physical therapists – they walked up and down and found that the device gave them a feeling of support, responsiveness, and fluidity.