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Improving the Lives of those Suffering with Muscular Dystrophy through Additive Manufacturing

A loss in limb mobility is a growing issue within the UK. Such issues are prevalent across a broad spectrum; ranging from mild discomfort to a complete loss of mobility. The most typical cause are experiencing a stroke and reduced mobility due to old age. The more infrequent but more severe form of this is attributed to muscular dystrophy, a range of diseases that centre around muscle wasting, typically leaving the person with severely reduced or no mobility.

ITERATE were approached some months ago by a lady who experienced a similar condition. Although undiagnosed, the progressive loss of function in her limbs over many years had left her wheelchair bound and with severely reduced mobility in her arms. To assist with the condition, a motorised system was purchased with the intension of offering arm support and enhanced movement. However, this system proved to be insufficient due to the ‘one size fits all’ design that was unable to accommodate the range of movement required. For this reason, it is believed that a custom fitting solution, which involves a high proportion of additive manufacturing, would lead to an improved design. Additive manufacturing has been highlighted as a key technology as there is a desire to create an arm support system that is lightweight, compact and comfortable to use. It is also intended that a greater range of movement will be achieved by incorporating a series of linear actuators in to the printed structures.

An article in the New York Post (November 2019) outlining a previous project ITERATE had supported (https://nypost.com/2019/11/18/engineers-create-bionic-arm-with-3d-printer-in-just-10-hours/) led to initial contact being made. Since then, our design team have had extensive contact with the Client via face-to-face meetings and video calls to truly understand their condition and the day to day problems that need to be resolved. ITERATE are now on a journey to deliver a working system that will enhance the lives of those living with muscular dystrophy by leveraging the benefits of additive manufacturing.

The wide range of skills and varied experience we have within the team are centred around new product development with a particular focus on engineered products suitable for the medical and healthcare sectors. Our intrinsic understanding of additive manufacturing also well positions us to be able to develop custom fittings products that are suitable for low volume production, as well as electro-mechanical integration.

Extensive research has allowed us to understand the exoskeleton market including different types of exoskeletons; typical function and use cases and forthcoming trends in additive manufacture that will be suitable for this product. A close relationship with the Client has helped us to clearly define the product requirements and engage in a product development process that will result in a technology driven product that will improve quality of life.

If you would like to find out more about this project or would like to discuss a product opportunity with us – Call: 01291 408283 | Text: 07935 448266 | Email: gethin@iterate-uk.com