Design of a Prosthetic Ankle Complex: A Study in Biomimetic System Design

Design of a Prosthetic Ankle Complex: A Study in Biomimetic System Design

Dheeman Bhuyan (Girijananda Chowdhury Institute of Management and Technology, India) and Kaushik Kumar (Birla Institute of Technology, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8235-9.ch005


Nature has, over a large span of geological time, engineered near perfect solutions to most problems humans face today. Motion of the limbs is one such area, and the cutting edge in the development of effective prostheses is biomimetics. Limb prostheses have been used by mankind for the better part of known history, and most of the technology currently available in prosthetics is not exclusively new. However, modern prosthetics either are uncomfortable—and the lack of flexion affects the gait of the patient—or too expensive for a large segment of the populace. This chapter seeks to study the mimicry of physiological systems through the design for an ankle prosthesis that includes a passive damper and mimics the shape and behavior of the natural ankle joint.
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Brief Background

The Prosthetic Leg

In order to understand the pedigree of the modern prosthetic design, it is necessary to trace its path through history. Indian literature from around 1500BC has documented the use of artificial legs (Vanderwerker, 1976; Dellon & Matsuoka, 2007). The first documented prosthetic leg was found in Pompeii dating back to 300 BC (Seymour, 2002).

Lower limb prostheses have been romanticized by Hollywood flicks showing pirates wearing wooden stumps and iron hooks. While it may have been perfectly feasible for seafarers to have a hook or a wooden stump for a prosthetic owing to the relative lack of resources at sea, the image popularised by Hollywood representations may be an over-reach.

The dark ages followed by the middle ages of Europe saw little to no development and the next watershed events in this timeline came in the sixteenth century when Ambroise Pare contributed major advances in prosthetics such as mechanical, hinged hands, and locking knee joints. One of his designs is shown in Figure 1. The American Civil War saw numerous casualties and this drove the need to develop newer and more effective prosthesis. The next watershed events in the development of prosthetics came during the World Wars followed by the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

Modern prosthetics are much more advanced than the wooden stumps and hooks that were the original prosthetic limbs. The most advanced designs feature electronic control with computer interfaces and bionics

Figure 1.

Artificial leg invented by Ambroise Pare (middle sixteenth century)

Source: Malgaigne (1841)

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