ISRO develops microprocessor-controlled smart terminals

As part of space technology, the Indian Space Research Organization said on Friday it had developed a smart prosthetic limb.

It is likely to be commercialized soon and is expected to be up to 10 times cheaper, benefiting above-knee amputees to walk comfortably, the International Space Research Organization said.

In a statement, ISRO said these microprocessor-controlled knees (MPKs) provide expanded capabilities to the amputee than those provided by non-microprocessor passive limbs.

“So far, the MPK’s 1.6kg mass has enabled an amputee to walk about 100m down the trail with minimal support. Efforts are underway to improve performance,” she added.

These smart MPKs are being developed by ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC), under a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Institute for Mobility Disabilities (NILD), Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya National Institute of Persons with Physical Disabilities (Divyangjan) (PDUNIPPD (D)), and India’s Prosthetics Manufacturer (ALIMCO).

The MPK consists of a microprocessor, hydraulic damper, load and knee angle sensors, composite knee case, Li-ion battery, electrical harness, and interface elements.

The microprocessor detects walking status based on sensor data. The control software estimates the damping in real time needed to achieve the desired gait by varying the system stiffness achieved by the hydraulic damper that is driven by a DC motor.

The walking parameters of an amputee can be adjusted using computer-based software to improve an individual’s comfort. The interface plots the parameters in real time while walking.

The Bengaluru-based National Space Agency said MPK development was a multidisciplinary and multi-stage activity.

After accessing the configuration based on the literature, and validating it through kinetic analysis to estimate subsystem requirements, multiple models for the system were developed.

The feasibility of the design was verified using a geometric model. The system consisted of an aluminum knee case, a solenoid valve-based damper, and a six-axle load cell.

While the following engineering model included a stepper motor-based damper and a composite knee case, the later model used a DC motor-based damper with a spool position sensor, a built-in pylon load cell, microcontroller electronics, and a graphical user interface to adjust parameters.

The tip subsystems—hydraulic damper, control electronics, and load cell—have been tested and characterized in standalone mode, using custom settings.

An ingenious method for non-amputee walking experiments has been developed that includes an external socket designed specifically for this purpose.

Multiple walking trials conducted with non-amputees made it possible to update the control software and adjust parameters.

After obtaining clearance from the Joint Project Monitoring Committee (JPMC), the device was tested with an amputee, designated by NILD for walking trials. The experiments were conducted in the NILD laboratory jointly with NILD and VSSC. Socket and fitting from MPK for amputees was done by NILD. Amputation parameters tuned by VSSC.

Initial walking experiments were performed with the support of parallel bars. Later, the statement said, the amputee could walk 100 meters down the aisle with minimal support.

“All of the knee sub-systems performed satisfactorily,” the International Space Research Organization said.

MPKs currently available commercially in India are imported and range from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 60 lakh, depending on complexity and functionality, according to the statement.

“The MPKs being developed, once commercialized, are expected to cost around Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000. MPKs are now being improved in terms of mass and envelope size,” she said.

“More intelligent information is being integrated into the system to help amputees navigate uneven terrain with advanced features for greater comfort,” the International Space Research Organization said.

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