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Technology and Health Care is intended to serve as a forum for the presentation of original articles and technical notes, observing rigorous scientific standards. Furthermore, upon invitation, reviews, tutorials, discussion papers and minisymposia are featured.
The following types of contributions and areas are considered:
1. Original articles:
Technology development in medicine: New concepts, procedures and devices associated with the use of technology in medical research and clinical practice are presented to a readership with a widespread background in engineering and/or medicine.
Significance of medical technology and informatics for healthcare: The appropriateness, efficacy and usefulness deriving from the application of engineering methods, devices and informatics in medicine and with respect to public health are discussed.
2. Technical notes:
Short communications on novel technical developments with relevance for clinical medicine.
3. Reviews and tutorials (upon invitation only):
Tutorial and educational articles for persons with a primarily medical background on principles of engineering with particular significance for biomedical applications and vice versa are presented.
4. Minisymposia (upon invitation only):
Under the leadership of a Special Editor, controversial issues relating to healthcare are highlighted and discussed by various authors.
Abstract: Current prosthetic hands are basically simple grippers with one or two degrees of freedom, which barely restore the capability of the thumb-index pinch. Although most amputees consider this performance as acceptable for usual tasks, there is ample room for improvement by exploiting recent progresses in mechatronics design and technology. We are developing a novel prosthetic hand featured by multiple degrees of freedom, tactile sensing capabilities, and distributed control. Our main goal is to pursue an integrated design approach in order to fulfill critical requirements such as cosmetics, controllability, low weight, low energy consumption and noiselessness. This approach can be synthesized…by the definition “biomechatronic design”, which means developing mechatronic systems inspired by living beings and able to work harmoniously with them. This paper describes the first implementation of one single finger of a future biomechatronic hand. The finger has a modular design, which allows to obtain hands with different degrees of freedom and grasping capabilities. Current developments include the implementation of a hand comprising three fingers (opposing thumb, index and middle) and an embedded controller.
Abstract: This paper presents the mechanical design for a new five fingered, twenty degree-of-freedom dexterous hand patterned after human anatomy and actuated by Shape Memory Alloy artificial muscles. Two experimental prototypes of a finger, one fabricated by traditional means and another fabricated by rapid prototyping techniques, are described and used to evaluate the design. An important aspect of the Rapid Prototype technique used here is that this multi-articulated hand will be fabricated in one step, without requiring assembly, while maintaining its desired mobility. The use of Shape Memory Alloy actuators combined with the rapid fabrication of the non-assembly type hand, reduce…considerably its weight and fabrication time. Therefore, the focus of this paper is the mechanical design of a dexterous hand that combines Rapid Prototype techniques and smart actuators. The type of robotic hand described in this paper can be utilized for applications requiring low weight, compactness, and dexterity such as prosthetic devices, space and planetary exploration.
Abstract: Where humans and mechanical systems operate in close proximity there is a need to provide drive systems that combine the positive attributes of conventional actuator design with a 'softer' safer interaction capacity. This is achieved by natural muscle, and engineering emulation of this functionality could have a significant benefits in many areas, but particularly the medical domain. This work will study the use of compliance regulated and controlled pairs of antagonistic pneumatic Muscle Actuators (pMAs) in two medical scenarios; i) The construction of dexterous prosthetic hands having a high power and low mass potential, ii) The construction…of a power assist device that can be used to augment the strength of those suffering from degenerative muscle wasting diseases.
Abstract: This paper presents the work carried out at the Instituto de Automática Industrial, in the framework of the EU MANUS project and with the co-operation of the Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven, to develop a specifically designed TWUM for driving our prototype of hand prosthesis. The application of TWUM to prosthetic devices has clear advanteges, namely, noiseless operation, self-braking drive, high torque and low speed characteristics. Here we analyse main actuation advantages, point out main drawbacks of this technology and describe our research in the area of specific design of TWUM for high torque actuation, improved control characteristics and enhanced overall…performance. We intend to provide a concurrent approach to the overall actuator design involving electronics, mechanical design as well as improved control strategies having in mind the prosthetic application.
Abstract: In this article we explore the feasibility of modeling normal and pathological human gait using a relatively simple five-element model. We use a robust, nonlinear control scheme to regulate the gait patterns of the model. Simulated gait patterns are generated through the use of five constraint relationships that depend on four gait parameters. Two pathological conditions due to muscle weaknesses were simulated by modifying the control torques at the joints. We demonstrate that the model successfully approximates the qualitative and quantitative dynamic trends that were observed in normal and pathological human locomotion.
Abstract: This work was carried out with the purpose of developing a new method of gastroesophageal reflux (GOR) detection. It is based on the emission of a light beam to the inferior part of the oesophagus and on the detection and analysis of the corresponding reflected light intensity. The optical properties of the oesophageal lumen are then used to identify the GOR episodes, solving, in this way, the existing drawback of using pH probes that fail in the cases where GOR episodes are neutral or short duration acid. The necessary instrumentation for the application of this new technique, including the probe…itself and its associated optics, was developed. The result is a low-cost portable instrument, based on the Microchip microcontroller PIC16C77, with enough flexibility to be used in other biomedical applications. This new simple apparatus only needs an adequate light source – diode laser – and an adequate photosensor – photodiode – to make the interface to the probe that guides the light to and from oesophagus. Our results show the capability of this new technique to make the identification of GOR episodes.