DSP technology may let amputees regain mobility and more control over their lives by using electronic limbs created at Liberating Technologies (Holliston, MA). The company has developed hardware and signal-processing software that produce realistic and useful movements in multi-axis electro-mechanical prostheses. In a video demonstration at the Texas Instruments Developer Conference in Dallas, TX, T. Walley Williams, Director, Product Development at Liberating Technologies, showed the range of motions available to amputees in a prototype prosthesis that employs from five to seven motors and weighs about three pounds.
The company’s Boston Digital Arm System harnesses myoelectric signals sent to muscles that remain after amputation, but that no longer control arm motions. These electrical signals provide control inputs to circuits based on a Texas Instruments DSP chip. Control algorithms within the chip control motions customized to the amputee’s needs. According to Liberating Technologies’ Williams, during customization of a patient’s prosthesis, much information goes back and forth between the DSP chip and a host PC used to fine-tune the algorithms. Williams also noted the prosthesis can accommodate people who have more or fewer available nerves for limb control. That type of customization requires only clicking on menus and cut-and-paste operations to change the Texas Instruments DSP code. “The tools make me many times more productive that I used to be,” said Williams. Mechanical-arm testing has taken place at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and DARPA has provided research funds.
Producing high-quality end-production metal parts with additive manufacturing for applications like aerospace and medical requires very tightly controlled processes and materials. New standards and guidelines for machines and processes, materials, and printed parts are underway from bodies such as ASTM International.
Engineers at the University of San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering have designed biobatteries on commercial tattoo paper, with an anode and cathode screen-printed on and modified to harvest energy from lactate in a person’s sweat.
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