Investigation and design of an actively actuated lower-limb prosthetic socket
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A prosthetic socket worn by an amputee must serve a wide variety of functions, from stationary support to the transfer of forces necessary to move. Fit and comfort are important factors in determining the therapeutic effectiveness of a socket. A socket that does not fit the subject well will cause movement problems and potentially long-term health issues. Because a subject's residual limb changes volume throughout the day, it is desirable that the socket adapt to accommodate volume changes to maintain fit and comfort. This thesis presents research to manufacture adaptive sockets using selective laser sintering (SLS). This additive manufacturing process allows freedom to design a socket that has both compliant areas that can adapt to changes to the residual limb, as well as rigid regions to provide necessary support for the limb. A variety of concepts are discussed that are intended for manufacture by SLS, and that feature flexible inner membranes in various configurations. For each concept the membrane will be inflated or deflated to match the limb’s change in volume and the thesis also presents a study to determine SLS machine parameters for optimal build results. A series of experiments was created to understand the ability of SLS manufactured plastics to be inflated and the possible performance.