In 2020 I started a Design Honours degree which lead me to working on a design project with the Biospine Research Group. This design project is focused on designing some new equipment for use during Biospine therapy, as it was found the current equipment which was available is not meeting the needs and wants of both the practitioners and the patient involved in the therapy.
To meet these needs and wants, it was decided that a human centered design approach could be utilised to conceptualise some new equipment designs. This led to the design project being titled:
'A Human Centered Design Approach to Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Equipment'
Below you can see several images which indicate the different stages of the human centered design process which has been completed thus far. If you click on the image, a short description of that stage of the project is provided. More information will be uploaded throughout the remainder of the project, however for copyright reasons the majority of imagery and information has remained disclosed.
If you would like more information about the Biospine research project feel free to check out the LinkedIn page here:
Biospine therapy involves the scanning of a patient's brain activity to send stimulation to the muscles of their lower legs through the use of electrodes. The patients legs are strapped to an 'ergometer' (like an exercise bike). The premise is that the more a patient thinks about moving their legs, the more stimulation is given and the faster they pedal. One major problem however is the amount of equipment and the time it takes to set it all up. This is where industrial design comes in!
Biospine therapy is an advancement on the traditional ergometer based spinal cord rehabilitation therapy. It involves specialised equipment; several electrodes attached to the legs of a patient who has suffered a spinal cord injury, the ergometer and computing system, extra strapping and padding to make the fitting of the patient to the ergometer more ergonomic, an EEG headset to scan the brain activity of the patient and the extra computing hardware which is needed to translate the scan data.
When it was found that the current equipment was causing frustration for the practitioners and the patient, my initial thoughts were to investigate how the equipment could be personalised to the patient. The goal was to utilise 3D scanning to develop anatomy matching equipment which would be easier and quicker to setup.
Due to my main strengths being in the 3d modelling, printing and scanning fields, branching out for this project was a bit daunting. Luckily, my sister is a set and costume designer and quickly sorted out a sewing machine and some basic tutorials for me. This was a major benefit throughout the remainder of the project, especially due to covid lockdown meaning I was working from home.
After eliminating the use of 3D scanning and 3D printing as an option, my process turned to experimentation with fabrics to develop a wrap style garment which would hold the electrodes. The design objectives were to design the wrap so it can minimise setup time, improve positioning accuracy and consistency and improve the securing of the electrodes to the leg. By meeting these goals it was perceived the setup time would be reduced!
Some material was eliminated from the initial design to make the wrap fit around the upper leg better. The material used in V1 and V2 was a polyester spandex material, however this soon changed.
At this stage I was testing the use of cut-out slots in the wrap in order to position the electrodes correctly. The idea being the electrode would slightly overlap the edge of the hole and be removed off the leg when the wrap was removed. When removed in a stretching fashion, the electrode would pull off the fabric. I figured more testing was needed, perhaps with different electrodes. One possibility was we could design a custom electrode with tabs to hold onto the wrap.
The initial testing of the polyester spandex material proved that the fit was good, but the fabric was too floppy and weak. It needed to be more rigid in order to be applied easily. I acquired some 6mm neoprene to prototype with.
I was finding that the removal of the electrodes was proving difficult with the currently used electrodes, so I began testing some different electrodes to investigate the different materials they were made from and how this affected performance.
I tested electrodes made using silver ink, stainless steel thread, carbon rubber pads, conductive foam and sponges. It was evident that the currently used stainless steel thread based electrodes were the stronger of the field, however some alternatives such as the silver ink, dual butterfly electrodes and snap on connectors were great to test and compare to the currently used equipment.