Cedarville University Student Works With Optimus Prosthetics For Capstone Project

It's a problem most of us can relate to, clothing material that scratches our skin or causes uncomfortable chafing.

That kind of problem is easily solved by changing clothes. But for amputees wearing what amounts to a sock over their residual limb, such a dilemma can be painful and demoralizing.

To solve that problem, amputees with irregular amputations typically turn to a custom liner. But the custom prosthetic liner manufacturing process is tedious and time-consuming, usually requiring five to 10 days.

Enter Cedarville University senior mechanical engineering students, who have dedicated their senior capstone project to reducing the manufacturing process time from 10 days to one day in partnership with Optimus Prosthetics of Dayton, Ohio.

The senior mechanical engineers working on this project include Kenneth Coppens of Orrstown, Pa.; Tad McKanna of Bowling Green, Ohio; Joshua Wells of Toledo, Ohio; and Isaac Wheeler of Newark, Ohio. They are being guided by faculty advisors Tim Norman, distinguished professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering, and Jay Kinsinger, associate professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering.

The primary goal of the project is to develop a process that allows prosthetists to create custom liners for amputees that is more efficient than the current custom liner manufacturing process. They plan to complete their project by April.

While most amputees can be fitted with a standard prosthetic liner for their residual limb, those with irregular limb shapes require a custom liner to reduce the load on the residual limb. That allows for longer wear because it prevents irritation from the air bubbles and chaffing caused by putting a standard liner on an irregular amputation.

Laura Klagstad, a certified prosthetist orthotist, and Russell Hawkes, a prosthetic technician who is also an amputee, from Optimus Prosthetics in Dayton, are working with Cedarville's engineering students on this project.

"Gel liners are integral in today's prosthetic-fitting process," Klagstad said in a news release. "Custom distal gel cups and custom liners provide an option for these patients to obtain a comfortable fit. However, the fabrication of these custom devices is timely and expensive. There is also a great deal of variability due to current fabrication practices. We hope to streamline this process through 3-D printing for improved patient satisfaction and an overall reduction in fabrication complexity and cost."

The two options to meet this objective are 3-D printing the liner or 3-D printing the mold into which the liner material is injected. The use of a computer numerical control machine, stereolithography robotics, and fused deposition modeling are all possible options to manufacture a custom liner or mold.

The ideal outcome would be to develop a process that allows prosthetists to 3-D print a custom liner at their office, which would allow for a quicker and more efficient process to create irregularly shaped liners. Throughout the project, both methods will be evaluated and the best process will be determined.

"It is a thrill as an engineer to see the direct and immediate benefits that a project has on a client," Kinsinger said. "Twenty-five years ago, an amputee's only option for a liner was a woolen sock. The creation of polymer gel liners was revolutionary. These students are now revolutionizing the revolutionary."

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