Amparo - The Confidence Socket

Enhancing mobility for amputees: Amparo is returning to the HPI D-School

Design Challenge: Redesign the lower limb replacement experience for people who live in developing countries and who have limited access to highly functional existing solutions.

Project Partner: GET – Global Engineering Teams

Concept:

Worldwide 90% of amputees do not have access to modern prosthetics. For them, the resulting loss of mobility often leads to a poverty cycle. A HPI D-School project in summer 2014 addressed that issue and challenged a multidisciplinary and international group of students to redesign the lower limb replacement experience for people living in developing countries. For four months the students worked on a solution to make amputees mobile again, helping them to integrate into society again and to gain back their confidence.

What started as joint Advanced Design Thinking project together with HPI D-School and the Global Engineering Program at Penn State University became a startup with a clear goal: Empowering amputees worldwide by revolutionizing prosthetics. After the idea development phase during their HPI D-School semester, some students from the Global Engineering Teams (GET) decided to bring their team's solution to life. They wrote a business plan and received a start-up grant from the EXIST programme, which is co-financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the European Social Fund (ESF), allowing them to research different materials for the development of their product, the Confidence Socket. In August 2016, Lucas Paes de Melo, Wesley Teerlink and Felix Dietrich officially launched the company “Amparo”.

Empowering amputees

Using human-centered design, Amparo developed an innovative and adjustable prosthetic socket that is much simpler and faster to use than other existing options. Sockets are the components of prosthetic legs that act as the interface between the prosthesis itself and the amputee’s limb. They need to be individually customized for each patient, which usually makes the production and fitting very complex and time consuming.

Instead of applying the casting methods used in traditional socket making, Amparo’s socket is fitted directly to the amputee’s limb. The team is using thermoplastic material that becomes flexible when heated and can then be molded to an amputee’s limb to create the socket. As there are no special tools needed for this procedure, it can be completed in one visit. Other than traditional sockets, the Amparo's thermoplastic socket can always be re-heated and remolded to the limb, which becomes necessary when an amputee’s limb volume changes. This technology will save amputees a lot of time, money and worries.

Returning to the HPI D-School

In early 2018 Amparo plans to launch a pilot project in South Africa. In an economically underdeveloped region of the Eastern Cape, the Amparo teams wants to equip 30 South African amputees with the Confidence Socket without charge. For that they are launching the campaign Yes I Care.

To organize this and future projects, Amparo is currently establishing an NGO and looking for creative fundraising ideas. Where best to find them than at the HPI D-School? In summer 2017 Lucas Paes de Melo returned to the HPI D-School, this time becoming a project partner himself and submitting a challenge for the students: Redesign the fundraising experience for donators to an NGO that will provide rehabilitation and prosthetic services for amputees from developing countries. “The HPI D-School is the perfect environment to see unexpected ideas being born – people, place and the method are unique there.”

During their eight-week-projects two multidisciplinary student teams in the Basic Track developed creative solutions for Amparo’s challenge. The first solution is “You are the hero of your own story” that will establish a new fundraising experience around donation runs and focuses on individual stories of amputees. The second solution is a concept called “Move to move others” that will help Amparo to identify suitable corporate partners and to co-design fundraising strategies in the fields of mobility, sportswear and gamification.

Getting ready for the market entry

Applying Design Thinking both student teams developed creative, human-centered solutions for Amparo’s challenge and the Amparo is happy about the results: “We see great potential in both ideas and we will definitely implement them in the near future!” After conducting the pilot project in South Africa, the Amparo team plans to approach possible partners, preferably big players like leading car sharing companies in Germany. Meanwhile, market entry for the Confidence Socket is planned for early 2018. It will be an exciting year for the startup and the HPI D-School wishes Amparo a lot of success with reaching their goal – to enhance mobility for amputees.

Amparo: Lucas Paes de Melo, Wesley Teerlink and Felix Dietrich

Read the whole story and learn more about the solutions created by the Basic Track team!