Vanderbilt engineers’ Powered Knee and Ankle System licensed by California prosthetics company
A high-technology prosthetic device developed by a team led by Michael Goldfarb, H. Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Center for Intelligent Mechatronics at Vanderbilt University, has been licensed by Freedom Innovations, a California-based prosthetics company.
The agreement, announced April 14, grants the company exclusive rights to commercialize the world’s first lower extremity prosthesis with actively powered knee and ankle joints that operate synergistically.
The Vanderbilt Powered Knee and Ankle System features state of the art microelectronics technology that allows intelligent communication between the user and the prosthesis. Sophisticated software with intent recognition capabilities analyzes the user’s movement patterns, such as weight shifting or changes in joint angles.
These patterns are translated into power-driven actions and the analysis occurs within a few hundred milliseconds with smooth synchronization between the action of the user and the prosthesis. All of this occurs within a design envelope that is comparable to human anatomy, which is critical for user acceptance.
Michael Goldfarb, H. Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Center for Intelligent Mechatronics.
“Recent advancements in technology have enabled us to develop a powered prosthesis that reproduces kinematics close to biological norms,” said Goldfarb.
“We are entering an age where man and machine are becoming integrated,” he added. “I think our work is a pioneering example of this and we are excited to be working with Freedom Innovations to make this product available to amputees around the world.”
The convergence of technologies has made it possible for the Vanderbilt system’s prosthetic knee and ankle joints to work in unison. This allows above-knee amputees to walk 25% faster, while expending 30-40% less energy compared to other state of the art devices.
The increase in efficiency, paired with the system’s overall functionality and fall prevention mechanisms, also provides users with increased balance, agility and recovery reflexes to prevent falls. This improved level of safety will reduce the potential for injury and costly hospital admissions.
In addition to increased safety and metabolic efficiencies, the Vanderbilt system will offer actively powered stair and ramp ascent and increased symmetry of gait, representing the next leap forward in restoring amputees’ mobility. Plans to modularize the system will ensure that transtibial (below-the-knee) amputees will also have the opportunity to benefit from the ankle and foot technology.
“The technology developed by this group is world-class,” said Maynard Carkhuff, President and CEO of Freedom Innovations. “This agreement is an important milestone for Freedom as it demonstrates our long-term commitment to bringing innovative products to the market. We are excited to bring the two teams together to commercialize this product over the coming years.”
The technology transfer from Vanderbilt University to Freedom Innovations is the next step in the commercialization process and is scheduled to take place this summer. Based in Irvine, Calif., Freedom Innovations designs, manufactures, and markets advanced technology prosthetic devices globally.