Generic Approach to the Control of Powered Prostheses

STEPHEN S. DILLON, ENG*, AND CHARLES J. COURTNEY, CO Silver Spring, Maryland


In 1983 we began to address the long-standing lack of sophisticated upper-limb prostheses applicable to children. We sought to achieve the functional complexity of the Utah Artificial Arm using existing and projected powered devices sized for children (elbows and terminal devices), by integrating the control of any combination of devices into a coherent and manageable system on a case-by-case basis.

Accordingly, a family of electronic modules has been developed that can be combined in various ways to achieve the desired functional complexity for a particular patient's needs. Both single- and multi-site systems can be assembled; proportional control is inherent in the design. Once assembled, adjustments are minimal so that fitting and training are straightforward.

Laboratory tests and early fittings have been highly encouraging. All design goals have been met or exceeded and the modules have graduated from prototype status. Design work is continuing on new modules to enhance the versatility of the concept while retaining its generic character and ease of application.

*Universal Artificial Limb Company, 938 Wayne Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910