Specifying a Hybrid, Multiple Material CAD System for Next Generation Prosthetic Design
For many years, the biggest issue that causes discomfort and hygiene issues for patients with lower limb amputations have been the interface between body and prosthetic, the socket. Often made of an inflexible, solid polymer that does not allow the residual limb to breathe or perspire and with no consideration for the changes in size and shape of the human body caused by changes in temperature or environment, inflammation, irritation and discomfort often cause reduced usage or outright rejection of the prosthetic by the patient in their day to day lives. To address these issues and move towards a future of improved quality of life for patients who suffer amputations, Loughborough University formed the Next Generation Prosthetics research cluster. This work is one of four multidisciplinary research studies conducted by members of this research cluster, focusing on the area of Computer Aided Design (CAD) for improving the interface with Additive Manufacture (AM) to solve some of the challenges presented with improving prosthetic socket design, with an aim to improve and streamline the process to enable the involvement of clinicians and patients in the design process. The research presented in this thesis is based on three primary studies. The first study involved the conception of a CAD criteria, deciding what features are needed to represent the various properties the future socket outlined by the research cluster needs. These criteria were then used for testing three CAD systems, one each from the Parametric, Non Uniform Rational Basis Spline (NURBS) and Polygon archetypes respectively. The result of these tests led to the creation of a hybrid control workflow, used as the basis for finding improvements. The second study explored emerging CAD solutions, various new systems or plug-ins that had opportunities to improve the control model. These solutions were tested individually in areas where they could improve the workflow, and the successful solutions were added to the hybrid workflow to improve and reduce the workflow further. The final study involved taking the knowledge gained from the literature and the first two studies in order to theorise how an ideal CAD system for producing future prosthetic sockets would work, with considerations for user interface issues as well as background CAD applications. The third study was then used to inform the final deliverable of this research, a software design specification that defines how the system would work. This specification was written as a challenge to the CAD community, hoping to inform and aid future advancements in CAD software. As a final stage of research validation, a number of members of the CAD community were contacted and interviewed about their feelings of the work produced and their feedback was taken in order to inform future research in this area.