Senior Design projects are a key component to the capstone experience of students at the College of Engineering. One Senior Design group made up of Temple Bioengineering majors have developed a new way to create a prosthetic hand. The quartet have used new alloys to design a model that could bring the device to more people around the world.
Seniors Oreoluwa Alonge, Bria Coaxum, Kayleigh Ross, and Cassandre Beauzil have combined their areas of expertise on this task. The group has used nitinol, an alloy of nickel and titanium, for springs to make the hand much lighter and more affordable than existing models.
The idea came from an architecture student, the team's "client." The team chose this option over coming up with their own project or working with a professor. "I thought it was a cool idea," said Alonge. "In Senior Design they're trying to make it look as much of a workforce scenario as possible. We act as the company and he's coming to us with the idea. He brought us this elaborate design for the prosthetic hand and he asked us to make this work, as engineers."
The group's project has applied a new usage for the alloy known for shape memory and superelasticity. The shape memory allows it to take on heat and retain its form. Nitinol is also 10-30 times more elastic than normal metals. These two properties make it perfect for this usage as the spring made of nitinol has stretched and relaxed in the group's testing.
Alonge likes doing this project because it allows him to work out some of the theories he learned in his classes. "It's hard to do a lot of practical work in different classes. When it came to this possible hand, we took some of our knowledge from biomaterials, which everyone in the group took. We had to make a heat-resistant prosthetic and we took some ideas from the coursework to work along with the wire for the best possible result." The group researched and found materials to work with the nitinol that wouldn't heat up and damage the plastic of the mold.
Using the nitinol spring and 3-D printing, the group has been able to fulfill an objective of producing a cost-effective model. Alonge cited the manufacturing costs for his project were about $500, substantially lower than prosthetic hands on the market that can range from $1,500 to $10,000. "We found that some prosthetic hands on the market are hard to maintain and are heavy," said Alonge. "Ours is lighter because of the plastic we use."
The group will display their product on December 10 at the Senior Design presentations and completion before graduation on the 23rd.