Queen’s recognized for work on innovative prosthetic foot
An innovative and affordable prosthetic foot developed in collaboration with Queen’s University’s Human Mobility Research Centre (HMRC) has won a top award in a prestigious design competition for the medical technology industry.
The Niagara Foot, which could improve mobility for people everywhere who have lost lower limbs, won the gold award in the rehabilitation and assistive-technology products category at this year’s Medical Design Excellence Awards in Philadelphia. The device was designed specifically for affordability, as well as flexibility and durability, to help people in developing and post-conflict areas.
“The potential exists for the Niagara Foot to meet the needs of millions of high-performing amputees in these regions who want to continue working and taking care of their families,” says Tim Bryant, mechanical and materials engineering professor who leads the testing of the prosthetic device in the HMRC. “The project also demonstrates that innovation happens through collaboration, and I think the Medical Design Excellence Awards wanted to recognize that.”
Rob Gabourie, of Niagara Prosthetics and Orthotics International Ltd., invented the Niagara Foot and asked Dr. Bryant in 1998 to collaborate on the project and help with biomechanics and material analysis. Since 2004, more than 20 Queen’s students have been involved in the Niagara Foot project, working in the HMRC lab at Kingston General Hospital and travelling to El Salvador to perform field testing in partnership with Universidad Don Bosco.
The device is significantly different than existing dynamic prosthetic feet because it is easily adjusted. Prosthetists can tune the heel stiffness, forefoot stiffness and resistance to dynamic loading to meet patient needs, even in the field. Its flexibility allows for ease of use on all kinds of terrain, including the hilly regions of El Salvador.
The design collaboration also included DuPont Canada, which provided the technical support to incorporate its Hytrel™ plastic into the design; Centennial Plastics of Toronto; Hippo Design of Montebello, Que.; Précicad Inc. of Quebec City; and Logique 3D/Instadesign of Montreal.