Assisted finger orthosis

Summary of technology

Finger orthotics help to restore a finger’s function after tendon surgery. The finger is first immobilised, then the orthotic is introduced to gradually increase the finger’s range of movement and strength.

Current finger orthotics are complex and bulky, with several actuators and complex mechanics required to actively drive all three finger joints. Some orthotics comprise a single actuator coupled with passive springs, which does not mimic human motion adequately.

Curtin University has developed a novel robotic finger orthosis that enables all three finger joints to be actively driven from a single linear actuator using a lightweight and relatively simple ‘ten bar linkage’ mechanism. The range of movement can be preprogrammed to avoid the need for complete immobilisation.

Advantages

The novel design has a number of advantages over existing orthoses:

  • it is lightweight and can be produced as a single piece on a 3D printer
  • it is low-cost due to the way it is manufactured and because it only requires a single linear actuator
  • it can fit to any finger size with the use of scanning and 3D printer technology
  • its slim-line design and outer linkages leave the hand free to grip objects easily and allow the addition of sensors for measuring grip and other functions.

Researcher

Dr. Lei Cui at the Curtin University Department of Mechanical Engineering is head of this research.

Stage of development

A prototype has been developed and produced on a 3D printer. It is currently being tested to determine its operating characteristics.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property is owned by Curtin University. A provisional patent has been filed.

Opportunity

We are looking for suppliers in the rehabilitation market to collaborate with on the device’s development and to license the technology. We aim to add the device to commercial product ranges and integrate the device with existing myoelectric limb orthotics.

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