A student-led biomedical engineering team from UPC’s Barcelona School of Industrial Engineering (ETSEIB) has developed a low-cost, 3D-printed transradial prosthesis, ARM2u. Comprising 15 students, the team is enhancing their prototype with AI techniques for better adaptability and working on adding a functional hand with fingers. The ARM2u prosthesis is lightweight, customizable, and responds to nerve impulses using myoelectric control, says the university in a press release.
The project aims to provide an affordable and easily-produced alternative to conventional prostheses, utilizing PLA plastic and 3D printing. The team is currently seeking sponsors for marketing and new carriers to test the prototypes in real-life environments. They will represent Spain in the 2024 Cybathlon, a competition where individuals with physical disabilities test advanced prostheses developed by global research teams.
Transforming Prosthetics with AI and 3D Printing
The ARM2u prosthesis, developed by a group of young students since 2018, is a transradial prosthesis that replaces an arm missing below the elbow. It is designed to respond to the user’s nerve impulses through myoelectric control, which translates the electrical signals produced by muscle contraction into commands for the prosthesis. This advanced control enables hand pronosupination (forearm rotation) and opening/closing movements.
ARM2u’s design stands out due to its customisability and adaptability to the user’s arm size, making it more comfortable to wear. The prosthesis is made from PLA plastic, a low-cost material, using 3D printing techniques. This manufacturing approach significantly reduces the overall cost of production compared to traditional prostheses, making it a more accessible option for those in need.
Developing the Next Generation Prosthesis
After creating two prototypes, the ARM2u team is continuously working to improve the prosthesis. They have developed myoelectric control technology based on pattern recognition using AI techniques, allowing the prosthesis to be even more adaptable. Furthermore, they are working on incorporating a hand with fingers into the next version of the prototype.
The team aims to showcase their innovative robotic arm at the Cybathlon 2024, the main event of the Cybathlon Challenge. ARM2u will be the only Spanish team participating in this competition, where people with physical disabilities, known as “carriers,” test prostheses developed by research teams from universities and companies worldwide. Carriers tackle everyday tasks such as handling and transporting objects and placing them in specific positions inside cubes with different slots.
Seeking Sponsorship and New Carriers
As the ARM2u team works to refine their prosthesis and prepare for the 2024 Cybathlon, they are actively seeking sponsors to help advance the project and bring their low-cost prosthesis to the market. Team leader Álvaro García Martín explains that “sponsor support is key to reaching our goals. Small development teams like ARM2u need resources and industry knowledge from different sponsors to improve the technology incorporated into the prosthesis, its functions, and the adaptability for end users.” Additionally, the team is searching for new carriers to customise and test the prototypes in real-life environments.