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 PennState 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”.
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.