Bionic joint to help stroke pa­tients

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - ELECTRICAL TECHNOLOGY -

Sci­en­tists from the Univer­sity of Auck­land’s Bio­engi­neer­ing In­sti­tute (ABI) are col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Fraun­hofer In­sti­tute in Stuttgart, Ger­many to cre­ate hu­man ex­oskele­tons that will re­duce work­place in­jury and as­sist stroke pa­tients.

The Bionic Joint is a project that will in­te­grate the lat­est wear­able sen­sor tech­nol­ogy from the Univer­sity of Auck­land with mech­a­nisms that en­able move­ment pro­vided by re­searchers at Fran­hofer IPA.

The de­vice will sense and as­sist move­ments of the arm and could be used to help lift heavy ob­jects or per­form repet­i­tive tasks. In this way it could help to re­duce the risk of in­jury for peo­ple do­ing a lot of man­ual lifting. Stroke suf­fer­ers who need as­sis­tance to move in a smooth and co­or­di­nated man­ner could also use the de­vice, and it would im­prove their mo­tion pat­terns and help with re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

The ABI has spun out two wear­able sen­sor com­pa­nies in the last two years, StretchSense and IMea­sureU. Both startups have gone on to be win­ners at the NZ In­no­va­tors Awards in 2013 and 2014.

StretchSense makes “rub­ber bands with Blue­tooth sen­sors” that ac­cu­rately and com­fort­ably mea­sure hu­man move­ment. IMea­sureU de­signs and man­u­fac­tures minia­ture in­er­tial sen­sors for mon­i­tor­ing per­for­mance and re­duc­ing risk of in­jury.

Bionic Joint will in­te­grate both th­ese tech­nolo­gies to pro­duce a unique wear­able sens­ing de­vice to mea­sure and mon­i­tor arm move­ments.

Fraun­hofer’s ex­per­tise in ac­tu­a­tors and mo­tors will help put the ex­oskele­ton in mo­tion and drive its move­ments. With ad­vanced high-tech re­search and large-scale man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, Ger­many will con­tinue to be a key re­search part­ner.

The project stemmed from an MBIE­funded visit to Fraun­hofer IPA and the Univer­sity of Stuttgart or­gan­ised by Pro­fes­sors Xun Xu and Peter Xu from the Univer­sity of Auck­land’s Fac­ulty of En­gi­neer­ing.

In 2013, the Min­istry of Business In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment funded a se­ries of work­shops be­tween Auck­land and Fraun­hofer on the top­ics of ro­bot­ics, mecha­tron­ics and bio­med­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing as part of the New Zealand-Ger­many Sci­en­tific and Tech­no­log­i­cal Co-op­er­a­tion (STC) Agree­ment Pro­gramme.

Pro­fes­sor Peter Hunter, along with As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sors Iain An­der­son and Thor Be­sier, will man­age the New Zealand end of the project.

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