Sustainable Development Goal target(s)
Good Health and Well-Being (SDG 3)
|Project lead||Randika Wathavana Vithanage, Electronic & Electrical Engineering|
|Open to year groups||3 to 5 and postgraduate taught students|
Please note: availability can vary between degrees. Please contact your advisor of studies and the project lead for more information.
To apply for this project please complete our application form.
Prosthetic hands for humans have been in existence for a very long time although, due to technological issues, they've not been very useful. Recently, the technology has advanced considerably to make prosthetic hands not just viable but really operate much like human hands.
Nonetheless, this technological advancement has come at a price with most of these devices costing upwards of £20,000 – a prohibitive cost for more people particularly for those who are most likely to suffer a serious hand injury.
Since 2012, through a series of projects, the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering has acquired substantial expertise in the technologies involved in developing, processing and control of signals (both biological and electronic) for prosthetic hands. This expertise has culminated in a prototype human articulated hand developed by a group of final year students and demonstrated in the Tradeshow on 16 April 2019.
The device was controlled in the same way a human hand operates with practically no time-lag between human signal and hand action. The hand’s main characteristics are responsiveness, functionality, aesthetic design, elegance of motion, as well as proper weight and good robustness. The hand is mainly constructed using 3D printing technology with a total cost of around £200.
The aim now is to further enhance this design with many different and diverse features such as improved control, sensors to enable proper grasping of various objects, increased number of grasping techniques, improved evaluation of intended human gestures to help drive the hand, an intelligent assistive system to aid amputees whose injuries are too severe to initiate gestures, etc.
The overall aim of the project is to produce a device which is functional, easy to use, assists the user when necessary and it is of low cost, so it can become widely available. If the cost is kept sufficiently low then charity organisations could be able to fund the costs for supplying the device to amputees who cannot afford present high prostheses’ costs.
What will students’ involvement be?
The project has a strong multidisciplinary nature. It involves aspects of:
- power engineering (for sourcing energy)
- evaluation of human myoelectric signals
- signal processing
- artificial intelligence (AI)
Students involved in this project will effectively interact and acquire extensive knowledge in some of these areas and general knowledge of many aspects in the others. Hence, students will learn to:
- design using computer-aided design (CAD) systems and transfer their designs to 3D printing technology
- design real-time control systems and apply them to real applications
- design and develop sensors for feedback and control in real-time situations
- develop software for real and simulated systems
- use current popular processors, e.g. Arduino, to implement real designs
- use methods of AI to enhance human system interactions (4th level and above)
- develop power scavenging systems to aid power consumption
In addition, and owing to the close synergistic work demanded by the project, students will have to work as a larger team and coordinate the project activities both at a local level (individual designs) and as a global entity (overall project). Teamwork, discipline, cooperation and focus on results are attributes invariably met in industry.