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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R013837/1
Title: Shape sensing textile for orthotics - SmartSensOtics
Principal Investigator: Münzenrieder, Dr NS
Other Investigators:
Roggen, Dr D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Helmholtz Association John Florence Ltd Kenya Medical Training College
Department: Sch of Engineering and Informatics
Organisation: University of Sussex
Scheme: GCRF (EPSRC)
Starts: 01 February 2018 Ends: 30 October 2021 Value (£): 744,204
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomechanics & Rehabilitation Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
14 Nov 2017 EPSRC GCRF Diagnostics, Prosthetics and Orthotics panel November 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Orthotic products are of great importance to a number of people around the world. The process of fabricating orthoses is well established, but depends on a time and resource consuming plaster cast method developed over 100 years ago. This is associated to a number of reasons e.g. the fact that an Orthotist has to shape the patient's body to define the shape of an orthosis. In particular in the case of children or patients with joint contractures and anatomical deformities, such as those affected with neurological and neuromuscular medical conditions, such as Cerebral Palsy. This issue prevents the efficient application of MRI, CT or optical imaging techniques, because these require extensive post-processing to discriminate between the patient's body and the Orthotist's hands. Additionally, such imaging equipment is expensive and requires a highly technicians. Hence, providing orthoses is only possible if, hospitals, expensive medical scanners, consumables, and workshops are accessible. This is not the case in developing countries, consequently orthoses in LMICs are often fabricated form scrap such as old water canisters.

Recently, the development of flexible, soft electronics, as well as the spread of wearable electronic devices has made significant progress. Here we want to develop a smart, portable and stretchable textile sleeve with integrated sensors connected to a smartphone to realize an entirely new, versatile, and wearable body shape imaging technique. The digital limb models by our system can then be used for the computer aided fabrication of customized orthotics, without the need for significant infrastructure.

Our smart textile will contain an active array of stretchable strain sensors to measure the deformation of the textile itself. The knowledge of the strain distribution inside the tight fitting stretchable textile when worn over a limb or body part will be used to determine the exact three-dimensional shape of the limb. Any external influence such as the force applied by the Orthotist will also be quantified, but will not interfere with the shape measurement.

The development and fabrication of biocompatible, polymer based strain gauges able to measure strain of >200% will be done in the semiconductor manufacturing cleanroom at the University of Sussex. This cleanroom is optimized for the fabrication of flexible electronic thin-film devices on plastic substrates. The sensors will then be unobtrusively integrated into an elastane fabric using embroidery, and interconnected using conductive yarns. We will evaluate the required sensor density to achieve a measurement resolution sufficient for the fabrication of orthotic products. In a next step, the acquired sensor data will be proceed on a smartphone to automatically generate a three-dimensional model of the imaged body part. Hence no professionals, additional infrastructure or consumables are needed to support the Orthotist in treating the patients. The generated digital model can then be electronically sent to a manufacturer or used to produce the orthosis in a mobile 3D printer, whereas printing of a mould for the conventional fabrication of orthoses, and direct printing of an orthosis will be evaluated. John Florence Ltd. will be responsible for the fabrication of the Orthotic products and the evaluation of their quality.

To assess the technology as a whole, and to define workflows for the fabrication of orthotic products in rural areas in developing countries, the Kenya Medical Training College and the Ability Therapy Place will support us evaluate the developed wearable in Kenya.

The shape and force sensing technology developed here will not only revolutionise the fabrication of orthoses, but also influence the development of other medical products such as prostheses, monitoring of diseases related to the shape, size or deformation of the skeletal system or soft tissue, and even the realization of artificial sensor skins for interactive soft robots
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.sussex.ac.uk